What signal will "a trip with an overnight stay on Saturday" give to the airlines and how would they possibly react?

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    Not just airlines but all sorts of travel: hotels, car rentals, trains... – user71659 Oct 30 '18 at 14:56
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    Could you explain how the airline would gain knowledge of your overnight-stay and why you assume they would react in any way? – npst Oct 30 '18 at 16:42
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    "It makes it cheaper." – Fattie Oct 30 '18 at 16:44
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    There's an underlying question here. Could you share it with us? – Carl Kevinson Oct 30 '18 at 22:06
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    I assume you're thinking about pricing, but there's no single answer, it depends on demand, seasonal demand projections, competitive pressures, etc, there's no single factor that determines pricing. The only real way to determine pricing is to look up pricing for your trip (and try some date options if you're flexible). The old "trips without a Saturday stay are expensive" rule no longer applies, their algorithms are much more complicated. Even booking 2+ weeks in advance is no longer a guarantee of the lowest fare, I've gotten some great deals a few days before a trip. – Johnny Oct 31 '18 at 0:07

It tells them that you're most likely not travelling for business. The common airline-industry knowledge states that most business travelers will leave during the early part of the week and return home on Thursday or Friday in order to spend their weekend at home. If you're willing to stay over the weekend you're probably (or so the thinking goes) travelling for leisure and getting the most out of your vacation by staying for the weekend.

Business travelers are generally paying with a company credit card (or getting reimbursed) so they typically care far less about the cost of their tickets. Thus, airlines can get higher prices from them. Leisure travelers, on the other hand, are usually paying with their own money and are thus more price sensitive customers. Hence, the discount for staying a Saturday night may help attract them to purchasing a ticket.

This practice of finding dividing lines between types of customers (such as the Saturday night stay) is called "segmentation" and allows airlines to charge customers according to the features of their trip that are most important to them. This is the basis of an airline's Revenue Management department, whose job it is to find these segments and set out different price points in the market according to the needs of each different segment.

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    Another term that's probably more google-able is "price discrimination". – Acccumulation Oct 30 '18 at 22:24
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    "and allows airlines to charge customers according to the features of their trip that are most important to them" - You mean "charge them as much as possible"? – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 30 '18 at 22:43
  • I have on several occasions added the weekends to my business trips (at my own expense, obviously) to go see the city or meet friends living there. I realise this is not the usual scenario, but still. – IMil Oct 30 '18 at 22:53

What signal will "a trip with an overnight stay on Saturday" give to the airlines and how would they possibly react?

Almost none at all.

The accepted answer used to be correct maybe 15 years ago, but much less so today. Prices are set by complicated revenue optimization systems that apply data mining on booking behavior and patterns, historical data, current booking rates and artificial intelligence. Apparently there isn't a whole lot of actual correlation between "willing to pay more" and "not staying the weekend" and as a result the price difference between Sat night stay or not has pretty much disappeared.

I just checked a a routes I regularly fly and there was almost no difference between a Tue-Thu (same week) or Tue-Tue (including Sat night) trip. It's more expensive on Mon and Fri since more people travel on these days; non-stops are more expensive than connections; but I couldn't find any significant price difference for a Sat night stay.

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    You have to set your start day so that you look like a weekend traveler. Just searched SFO-EWR on UA, arriving Fri, departing Fri: $708 (You're in for a few hours, so the value to you is lower), Sat $790 (A business traveller who wants to get back ASAP), Sun $758, Mon $743 (A leisure traveller who's got a job that they can take Monday off), Tue $785 (Back to business travellers). I agree it isn't rigid as Saturday night stay anymore, instead it's a more complex segmentation criteria based on arrival, departure, and length of stay. – user71659 Oct 30 '18 at 19:13
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    So while I agree that the truth is more complicated than what I posted above (this is stackoverflow, not a collegiate lecture on revenue management), I can absolutely tell you from personal professional experience that the answer is correct. Saturday night stay is definitely a consideration in RM practice, including the "complicated revenue optimization systems" that you reference (which are probably not nearly as complicated as you think. Airlines are a few decades behind in that respect). – cbw Oct 30 '18 at 19:39
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    @cbw fair enough. All I'm saying is that 15 years ago there was a massive price difference associated with Sat night stay. More than 2x; to the point where you would buy two return tickets with a Sat nigh stay instead of a single return without. That seems to have completely disappeared and in the few cases I looked at, there was no meaningful difference between Sat night stay or not. So whatever reasoning the airlines used to have, doesn't seem to apply anymore. – Hilmar Oct 31 '18 at 0:27
  • I guess I should have been a bit more specific. In saying that a Saturday night stay is still considered I may have implied that it's heavily considered, when in fact it may not be. There are still instances when it is a strong indicator, but in general it does carry a lot less weight than it used to and its effect may be completely obfuscated by other factors which have been deemed more important. So I guess you could say that my posted answer is looking at Saturday night stay in a vacuum instead of in practice. – cbw Oct 31 '18 at 13:10

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