One heck of a coincidence recently went down in the U.S. airline industry. Three of the largest airlines in the country have altered the way they price fares for multi-city trips, forcing multi-city travelers to shell out hundreds of dollars more if they continue to book multi-city flights. 

Travelers that purchase straightforward roundtrip tickets won’t be affected by the change. But those expecting to touch down in several cities during a single trip can also expect airfares that are up to seven times higher than they previously would have paid if flying on Delta, United or American airlines. 

REASON BEHIND THE CHANGE
 

The fare increases are a result of the three large airlines trying to match low-cost airlines on a greater number of routes. Some travelers discovered they could save money by booking a multi-city ticket instead of one connecting ticket, which gave them several one-way legs as part of the same overall flight. 

For example, travelers who were heading from New Orleans to Los Angeles with a connection in Dallas might pay around $300. But if the traveler instead broke up the two legs of the flight into a multi-city ticket, he would instead pay about $80 for the first leg and around $95 for the second, for a grand total of $175. 

Delta, United and American airlines halted the practice by no longer allowing individual, nonrefundable tickets to be combined. The only tickets offered on the airline websites for one-way legs are refundable tickets, which are generally much more costly than the non-refundable tickets most travelers purchase. 

Another scenario exemplifies just how much more costly the changes are. Let’s say a traveler wanted to book a trip from Orlando to Detroit, then another flight two days later to New York, followed with a return to Orlando two days after that. 

Related: Getting The Biggest Bang for Your Business Travel Buck

If booked as three, non-related, one-way flights, the overall cost from Delta would be as low as $282. If travelers tried to book it as a multi-city trip as they’re used to doing, booking the trip on a single ticket, the cost from Delta would be $2,170 for the exact same flights. 

Delta’s website automatically served up the more expensive option, with the costly, refundable tickets, and no other selections from which to choose. Searches for multi-city tickets on United and American airlines’ websites yielded similar high-cost results. 

THE SOLUTION 
 

Rather than booking a single, multi-city ticket, business travelers would now be better off booking separate flights for each leg of the trip. They need to note, however, that any changes to the itinerary are likely to cost dearly. Change fees for three one-way trips could climb as high as $600, depending on the locations, the airline and other factors.

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