The Upgrade Mindset & Contentment, Part II: Unhappy Ticket Buyers & FCF’s Theory of Relativity


It’s all about perspective…

It’s human to think in relative, and not absolute, terms. We all perceive an inch on a yardstick as smaller than an inch on a ruler. A $20 discount on a restaurant meal seems way more substantial than a $20 discount on a new sofa, despite the fact that you’re getting $20 either way.

This is a form of cognitive bias that we fall victim to every day. There’s confirmation bias, optimism bias, the halo effect… or my personal favorite, the Dunning–Kruger effect, where someone thinks they’re the smartest person in the room, when in fact the opposite is the case, but they’re too incompetent to realize it. (Charles Bukowski put it best: “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”)

In travel, anomalies of relativity abound. Jake hates making domestic connections, but he wouldn’t hesitate to make a double or even triple connection from Monterey to the Maldives. But if he has to book a connection to Los Angeles? Heck no. 

Margy wouldn’t think of paying 40% more than the lowest cost in dollars or miles, and yet she’s overlooking the fact the more expensive one fits perfectly with her schedule, on a nice internationally configured widebody flight, and it’s to and from her favorite airports.

A trip to the Maldives can certainly be looked at in relative terms. If you don’t like long-haul flights, a low $2,400 Business Class fare is kind of irrelevant, or if it’s not on your bucket list, you don’t care about a great fare. But let’s say you’re a loyalty traveler looking to rack up miles. In that case, a $2,400 flight to the Maldives can sound pretty great.

No Fare Is an Island

All of which is to say: No fare is an island (Maldives or not) and you shouldn’t necessarily look at fares in isolation. Most loyalty travelers go straight to their favorite airline website, thus missing the context of what other airlines are charging. How can you recognize a good fare if you’re only looking at one airline, one route, one origin airport, or even one class of service? Without the full context, how could you say that something is expensive or inconvenient? Those self-talk statements are relative, without relevant data. So how does all this relate to booking flights?


It Takes Two Kinds

I see two kinds of travelers, those that love booking flights and those that don’t. Opportunity” travelers go where the deals are. They’re the ones flying comfortably for way less. The other travelers lock themself in on a particular flight, with a particular airline, on a particular date, thus locking themselves OUT of any potential opportunity.

Most people hate booking airline tickets. That’s because they see on screen in black and white how they’ve committed to what amounts to a high-fare route, date, airline, and flight, and/or they think that fares should be less.

And the process itself isn’t much fun either, for them. They’re forced to search on a zillion websites trying to squeeze blood out of a stone. These are unhappy bookers with unrealistic expectations. 

Here’s a plan: start with a deal, have a bucket list of five or 10 destinations, don’t lock yourself into one airline, and reap the benefits of Opportunity Travel. We have a bunch of readers that do just this, and let me tell you, they usually have a smile on their faces when they’re booking.

It’s All About Perspective:
3 Ways to Flip Your Cognitive-Biased Travel Mind

1. The 3Cs. Last month we covered the 3Cs of premium air travel: Cost, Comfort, and Convenience – where cost is dollars, miles, or points, comfort is the class of service and seat quality, and convenience are the dates, times, number of stops, routing, layover times and so on. Most people are aiming to optimize all three on a journey and are generally disappointed. I sing this song: “two out of three ain’t bad” –  aim for two of those three Cs. You should be happy paying a little more if you get a nice seat on the exact dates you want. Or, for a nice low price, you might have to put up with leaving a day or so earlier or later, and so on. I think you’ll find that this opens up possibilities, rather than closing them down.

2. Already have a trip in mind? Be an Opportunity Traveler. Beating cognitive biases means opening your mind and being flexible. Sometimes, it means being a little adventurous. Don’t see a deal to Copenhagen in FCF’s Rare Fares? Why not look at some nearby cities? European cities are often relatively close to each other, and travel from one to another is cheap over there. Hey, there’s a deal to Amsterdam. Grab it and catch a short flight or the train over to Denmark. Can’t find a great deal to Singapore but Ho Chi Minh City is available for a discount price in Business Class? Go to HCM – a fantastic destination – and then jump a shuttle to Singapore. They’re only two hours apart. That right there is being an Opportunity Traveler. Go get ‘em.

3. Don’t have a trip in mind but would take one if the price was right? Don’t Book Backwards. The conventional wisdom when booking travel is to dream of somewhere you want to go (maybe you were inspired by a magazine article or a friend’s story), THEN you plan (most folks visit 38 websites during this phase, according to surveys) and THEN you book. I say, flip that script. So when I book, I rate the premium cabin aspect of my trip as highly important. (“If I have to fly coach, I’m not going,” many say.) I start there and build around it. This means finding a great flying experience and retrofitting it back to a range of destinations I have in the back of my mind (but never in the back of the plane). In this way, you’re turning the funnel upside down with the largest number of premium travel opportunities at the start of the process. More about booking backwards here.

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