Thinking About "Branded Fares"
Most of you will have noticed the introduction of branded fares on many airlines. These are new. Well, they are not really. Fares have always been branded in that the price you pay, depended on the type of fare you required. Such factors as length of stay, flexibility to change (and how much you would have to pay to change), if you were staying over a weekend (or not) and how far ahead you were able to book - all these factors determined what price you paid. It is just that airline marketing types were never let loose on the original versions of fare types.
Then things changed and a new dimension was added to the concept. Do you need a hold bag? Would you like to reserve a seat? How do you wish to pay? In some cases, if you wished to order a meal for your flight - these were not so much "add-ons" rather "put-backs" - items which were once included in the fare, which have now become "optional extras".
It is interesting to look at these items but that should not - must not - detract from the original features that drove the price of your ticket. To my mind, the main item is that of flexibility and being especially aware that more money does NOT always mean more flexibility. You can travel quite high up the fare food chain, only to find that your ticket does not allow any changes at all. If you need to change, then you have to buy a whole new ticket. That said, many airlines have started to tweek the rules so that higher value "basic" fares do allow some (albeit in some cases, expensive) changes.
The important point, here, is to see past the "bag and seat" part of any airlines sales pitch and look very carefully at what you can and cannot do with a fare, as well as how much that flexibility will cost, before making your purchase decision. Buying on price alone, is no longer a useful criteria. Oh! And on short haul flights, consider two one way tickets rather than a return - the fare rules on a one way fare can be very different to those on a return fare.