Airfare arbitrage. Frequent travelers know

Airfare arbitrage. Frequent travelers know that sometimes different websites (and for that matter, websites versus calling an airline directly) will provide different prices for the exact same flight. What I never quite realized before today was that different countries’ versions of the same website may price differently as well.

I did a bit of experimentation with United’s web site today. United has a whole bunch of local sites: United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore — just to name a few.

I tried pricing out some itineraries on different United website, and I got different prices. (Naturally, each site priced in its local currency, but I used Expedia’s currency converter to normalize prices into US dollars.)

One example: Los Angeles –> Sydney –> Los Angeles, October 10 outbound and October 20 return:

  • United States: US$1022.25
  • Australia: US$1,776.58
  • Great Britain: US$1597.96. However, LA –> San Francisco –> Sydney –> San Francisco –> LA prices at US $1025.
  • Canada: US$1619.48

Another example: Hong Kong –> Singapore –> Hong Kong:

  • Hong Kong: US$208
  • United States: US$ 936.14
  • Singapore: US$ 185.00

Guess which site I’d pick in each case? US in the former, and Singapore in the latter. The confusion of airline pricing continues!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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