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So I find myself flying mixed-class fares pretty often these days, with the long legs in Premium Economy and the short hauls in plain old Economy. Some sample trips flown or planned:

  1. SYD-AKL-SFO (NZ), with SYD-AKL in Economy and AKL-SFO in Prem Econ
  2. SYD-SFO-LAS (UA), with SYD-SFO in Economy Plus and SFO-LAS in Economy
  3. ZRH-DXB-SYD (EK/QF), with ZRH-DXB in EK Economy and DXB-SYD in QF Prem Eco

Problem is, none of the booking engines I know handle this. For example, if I select "Premium Economy" in my usual favorite, ITA Matrix, it interprets this as "must fly in prem eco or better" and thus doesn't find #1 at all, instead offering $9,000 fares via Hong Kong or something (because there's no Prem Eco for SYD-AKL), and for #2 it quotes me SFO-LAS in First. None of the airline sites listed above seem to cater to this either, except -- oddly enough -- for award redemptions. I usually end up getting quotes for plain old economy and asking actual human travel agents how much an upgrade would cost, but this is slow and inconvenient for everybody involved.

So is there a booking engine that lets me specify "fly in premium economy if you can, but economy if not"?

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When booking on the BA website, I find that if I ask for Premium Economy it normally puts you into regular Economy if PE isn't available (short haul, partner etc). Did you try the various airline's own website, in case one of them offers "PE or lower" rather than "PE or higher" logic? –  Gagravarr Jul 24 at 8:31
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Though personally, any time I need to book something with complicated fare class restrictions (eg some legs in one class, some in others), I find it simplest to phone up a travel agent and book with them! –  Gagravarr Jul 24 at 8:33
    
@jpatokal I just tried ITA Matrix and for the route SFO-SYD, premium economy, 9/17/2014 and 9/24/2014 flight days, and the first hit that I got was Virgin, via LAX, with Premium Economy on the trans-pacific leg and economy on SFO-LAX. So ITA seems to be able to handle the query. Similar connections are avaiable on Quantas and Air New Zealand tickets (via LAX and AKL, respectively). –  DCTLib Aug 4 at 10:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The closest I have seen to what you are looking for is through Kayak. Based on certain criteria that it determines, tickets with multiple legs can have different booking classes.

For instance, the below Delta flight YOW-LHR-YOW has a total of 4 legs each of which can be booked in either Economy or Business.

The Details tab

enter image description here

You then move to the Fares tab to see the price

enter image description here

It doesn't work with all flights- presumably because all airlines don't allow it. On British Airways and Turkish Airlines flights, I've seen it allow choices of Economy, Prem Economy and Business.

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Nice! Didn't know about this, and it lets you switch to Prem Economy for Qantas flights. Doesn't seem to work for NZ or UA though, and I'm not a huge fan of Kayak's interface. –  jpatokal Jul 31 at 11:35
    
Personally, I find Kayak has a better interface than the rest. Everyone else seems really cluttered and noisy. –  karancan Jul 31 at 20:57
    
I suppose it's a matter of taste, but I prefer the ITA Matrix style of specifying what I need up front with fine-grained control (what airlines, what transit airports, etc). –  jpatokal Aug 1 at 10:59

The ability to book by fare class is one of the woefully missing aspects on online booking. In the early days of booking on the internet, some airlines offered the ability to book each leg by fare class, but that level of complexity was not utilized by travelers (except highly experienced flyers) and they all dropped it in favor of booking algorithms that satisfied the majority of travelers.

While perhaps the option could be added back in someday, I think the number of folks who have enough knowledge to benefit from it or that would be willing to spend the time to do it, is but a small fraction of the traveling public. Hence not really a good ROI.

Travel agents still have the ability to look at each leg of a trip and see how many seats are available in each fare bucket, and put together the perfect combo.

With each iteration, the booking algorithms get a bit better (most of the time ;-), but they will always be geared to satisfy the majority of travelers and hence never quite perfect for everyone.

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I had no idea it used to be possible. It would be nice if someone retained the functionality –  karancan Aug 1 at 16:15
    
This isn't really an answer. –  jpatokal Aug 6 at 12:07
    
No, it is background information as to why there is not the functionality you wanted. –  Tom Aug 6 at 13:43

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