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Did I Pay Too Much for That Airline Ticket?

Some companies are trying to come up with an answer.
Operations Inside The Southwest Airlines Co. Terminal Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Deciding exactly when to buy a plane ticket, and whether it’s a “good” price when you do, has thrown up a cottage industry around consumer doubt. Just like in a casino, passengers suspect they are the players and airlines are the house. And we all know who wins that one.

No shortage of “experts” will tell you that 11:17 p.m. on Tuesday is the optimal time to shop fares, or that buying 22.7 days before departure yields the best price. Unless it’s for international travel, then it’s 92.2 days. And what’s a good price if you have no experience in that market? Is $70 to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco good? (Yes.) Does an airport with Southwest Airlines Inc. always cost less? (No.)