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A few months ago I learned that Aeromexico has direct flights between Tijuana and both Tokyo and Shanghai.

But now I'm hunting around on their site and several flight search engines and can't find anything much cheaper than maybe $1500 between November ad March whereas I'd found as low as $550 one way when I first learned of these flights.

When I go to the airline's website I can look at each flight and every single one I checked, in both directions, for both countries, says economy is "sold out".

Could it be just a crappy site or crappy tactic and actually mean that rather than people having bought every economy seat on every flight, that those seats are not not being offered yet and may be bookable at some point in the future?

Does anybody know if Aeromexico or airlines generally do things like that? Or am I just out of luck and it's definitely true that they're all sold?

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    I assume that what is happening here is less that the class is "Sold Out" and more that it isn't being offered. Your choice is Flexible or Premier. There may not be an option for "That class is not offered on this flight" hence why they may have used "Sold Out". This is of course educated speculation (hence this is a comment). – The Wandering Coder Oct 3 '16 at 5:48
  • The lowest fare I see in November right now for TIJ-PVG is $1589 for K class. – Michael Hampton Oct 3 '16 at 6:10
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    On the other hand, the cheapest options I see in Skyscanner all have a transit in Canada, and avoid the US, which I suspect you are trying to do. – Michael Hampton Oct 3 '16 at 6:17
  • I'd blame Stackexchange users for buying out every seat after you've advertised that route in your questions :) – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 3 '16 at 8:57
  • Why the drive by downvote? Somebody who knows Aeromexico's policies and assumes everybody else does too? – hippietrail Oct 3 '16 at 9:03
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An airline can zero out inventory in any fare they don't want to sell, for example

  • If they accidentally posted the wrong fare (e.g. $90 instead of $900), they could zero out a bucket to prevent anyone from buying it.
  • If the airline or route are suspended (e.g. diplomatic or regulatory issues), then all seats may be zeroed out, because the route is not canceled and the flights will presumably resume, but you don't want people buying seats on flights that won't operate.
  • The same goes, of course, for flights that will be canceled before the end of the schedule.

Airlines do this all the time, and what you refer to as a "crappy tactic" is also the normal way airline seats are priced. A certain inventory of seats is available at certain fares. If demand is lower than projected, then the airline will release more seats in lower fares trying to attract sales. If demand is higher than projected, they won't, and they may be content to sell only full fares if they can fill the plane.

Here, the more prosaic explanation is that demand is indeed outstripping supply. Flights between China and the U.S. are completely sold out in certain months of the year, and there are far fewer seats between China and Mexico as opposed to the U.S. AeroMexico's PVG-TIJ flight operates only three times a week. There will be business travelers to TIJ (or going onward to MEX), but also people flying onward to Central or South America for whom the TIJ flight avoids needing to transit the U.S., while being far more direct than flying via YVR.

Second, the airline may set aside a large number of seats on some flights for sale through consolidators— it may be that the low fares you saw advertised are only available booking through a consolidator. This further constricts the supply of seats available for sale directly to the public.

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    It's a crappy tactic when you spend hours going through flights day by day looking for one unsold seat if "sold out" turns out to mean "we offered zero seats at this fare class and sold all none of them". Saying N/A instead of "sold out" would not be crappy. – hippietrail Oct 3 '16 at 7:46
  • Or just not displaying any "Economy" column for such flights. – hippietrail Oct 3 '16 at 9:03
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    @choster, is it the case that, quite simply, the OP might find seats on expedia and the like? – Fattie Oct 3 '16 at 13:18

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