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I am booking a round-trip flight to the United States and found that I can save up to 700 euro on a 1200+ euro ticket if I board the same plane one leg earlier. On the flight company's website a ticket from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Boston, United States costs me 1.227,75 euro. However, if I travel to Dusseldorf, Germany and board the exact same plane, the ticket will cost me 568,66 dollar (500+ euro). The latter flight will make a stop in Amsterdam and then continue to Boston.

The price from AMS to BOS is broken down as follows (in euro),

ticket price                                                     880,00
carrier-imposed international surcharge                          259,00
airport passenger service charge                                  13,00
noise surcharge                                                    0,50
security charge                                                   10,53
us customs user fee                                                4,84
us international transportation tax                               31,34
us aphis fee                                                       3,49
us ins user fee                                                    6,16
usa passenger civil aviation security service fee                  4,93
usa passenger facility charge                                      3,96

Flight AMS to BOS

While the price from DUS to AMS to BOS is broken down as following (in dollar),

Airline Ticket Cost:                                             135.60
Airline Ticket taxes and fees:                                   433.06

Flight DUS to AMS to BOS

This substantial difference gives me a sense of being scammed. I've read several articles on what makes up the price of a ticket but these cannot explain a 700 euro difference for a longer flight on the same plane with the same destination.

How can the same flight cost 700 euro less one leg earlier?

marked as duplicate by Zach Lipton, Willeke, David Richerby, Gayot Fow, JonathanReez Jun 12 '16 at 19:03

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Airlines price their flights based on supply and demand, not mileage. They believe they can get someone to pay 1,217.75 euro to fly from Amsterdam to Boston, so they'll charge that much. They don't believe (for a variety of factors, related to the local markets and competition) that someone will pay that much to fly from Dusseldorf to Boston, so they charge less. But they can't sell too many cheaper tickets from Dusseldorf, or they'll fill up the Amsterdam-Boston flight and lose revenue. Figuring out the right balance is key to being profitable. – Zach Lipton Jun 11 '16 at 22:57
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    In addition, a "carrier-imposed international surcharge" is basically just part of the fare. It's not a tax that goes to the government. Airlines do it because it allows them to trick people into believing the base fare is lower, and because it lets them game certain systems in ways that are to their advantage (charge the surcharge on some frequent flyer bookings, travel agent commissions are only paid on the base fare, screw up industry discount fares, etc...), but at the end of the day, it's just part of the ticket price, whether they put it in a special category or not. – Zach Lipton Jun 11 '16 at 23:02
  • @ZachLipton So I could pay 700 euro extra because supply/demand is so different in Germany, even though AMS and DUS are a mere 200+ km apart from each other. I agree with the premisse of your answer, though I still find it hard to believe that that alone accounts for such a big difference in price. – sowa Jun 11 '16 at 23:33
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    Google hidden city ticketing. You just discovered a variant of it. Airline pricing is nuts. Another example in my question here. – chx Jun 11 '16 at 23:48
  • KLM/Delta (code shared) have a monopoly on the non-stop from AMS-BOS, hence they try to overcharge. DUS-BOS has lots of competition so they need to lower prices to stay competitive. It's not about what it cost, it's about supply and demand and what they think they can charge. That's what hidden-city ticketing is all about. – Hilmar Jun 12 '16 at 15:05
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If KLM wants passengers to fly with them from Dusseldorf to Boston, they have to compete with other carriers flying the same route. In this particular situation, they are obviosuly trying to underbid the German no-frills airline 'airberlin' operating on the same route, even with some direct flights, starting their round-trip tickets at around 550€.

If you can get a roundtrip with direct flights from airberlin for 550€, KLM will have to go lower with their offer to attract potential customers to compensate for the longer travel time and the inconvenience of a transfer in Amsterdam.

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How competitive is the sector?

You are booking a code-share flight with Delta, so you'll actually be flying on Delta (it says "operated by Delta"), and since Delta is a US based airline flying out of Amsterdam, they may have different costs for that segment.

A quick search finds that there are only two daily non-stop flights from AMS to BOS, and they are both on Delta.

As there is very little competition, and this is a very busy sector the airline can charge a premium as most passengers prefer direct flights.

Keep in mind that airlines have to bid for landing slots so if there are multiple flights to the same destination by an airline, its a very profitable sector and airlines are charging accordingly. Landing slots are not cheap (and landing and services fees can also run a premium for airlines).

Compare this to DUS - BOS, where Air Berlin has 4 flights a week (direct); but KLM (and by extension, Delta) only has connections through AMS.

This may explain the price variance, since they are competing in DUS, they are offering lower fares - plus the flight isn't direct so to make up for that, they have reduced the fares.

You won't see much difference if you were to book the flight from Delta directly; the AMS-BOS flight, booked on Delta costs 1211.86 EUR and the DUS-BOS flight, booked on Delta costs 716.16 EUR.

This is a good reminder that you should always check for other nearby airports when booking flights - a slight commute may end up saving you a considerable amount.

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There is no excuse for it, bad for environment as people land and take of more often and quite often also travel more land miles to make use of a cheaper airport.

But Airlines do it as they can get away from it.

I have heard it explain as there is a big difference in costs the airlines pay for a transfer passenger compared to a long distance passenger leaving from or arriving at the airport. While short distance flights are on the lower cost scale.

One time several European friends all flew to Boston, USA, and all had comparable lenght (and days) of stay. The final ticket prices were about the same, within €50 from each other, bought around the same time.

  • One flew Bristol (BRS), Amsterdam (AMS), Boston (BOS).
  • One flew Amsterdam (AMS), Paris (CDG), Boston (BOS).
  • One flew Amsterdam (AMS), Rome (FCO), Boston (BOS).

At that time the flight Amsterdam - Boston was about €300 more expensive. As was London (HTR) Boston, if not more expensive.

I personally feel that the system of dropping the price when adding a leg should be stopped, but till a big country or a series of countries, or more likely both at the same time, make laws against it airlines will continue. So your best option is to search well.

By the way, in Paris one flight was delayed so arriving in Boston 3 hours late. On the way back the incoming flight was late in Paris so running and rushed few minutes.
And in Rome luggage got 'lost', to be delivered 4 days late in our destination town a few hours drive away.
So it is worth considering to pay more for a direct flight.

  • There is an "excuse" for it (it's called Competition!), and without the ability to do this the airline industry would almost certainly fail, resulting in significantly higher prices for everyone. – Doc Jun 12 '16 at 22:58

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