Q – We just saved about $400 by paying no attention to what a US Air agent told us on the phone and doing our own online research. It turns out that we were able to save considerably by departing Philly for the West coast on the early morning flight and leaving LA around dinner time. Just wondering if this was a fluke and why we weren’t told this by airline reservations. Our departure and return flights were pretty close to the ones they quoted so why didn’t they tell us about the lower fares if we just changed our times?

A – Thanks for a great question because you have put your finger on a pricing anomaly that makes the airlines millions upon millions of additional dollars per year. If you give them your desired flight times, they will, most often, not go the extra step to inform you that you could have saved $200 each by coming home later or departing LA earlier. The fact is that the first flight out, the 6:00 am or so departure, is usually the lowest priced flight of the day because it means that business people would have to awaken at three or four in the morning to make it to the airport on time. No one wants to do business in that condition. Coming back from LA, to use your example, you lose hours so a flight that leaves around 5:00 pm. will not get you into Philly much before Midnight. No business person wants to arrive home that late. So that’s the trick. Choose the flights you would never select if you were flying on business and had to put in a full day at work soon after your arrival. Work around those times demanded by business travelers. That is the best way to secure the lowest fares on domestic flights.