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As with NYOP offers, these rates are "opaque" because you do not know the name of the carrier, the number of stations, the time of departures and arrivals and the type of additional charges you have to incur before you buy. If you are not familiar, non-transparent airfare is completely non-refundable and non-modifiable (there is a difference), i.e. "you buy it, you travel it", even if you are willing to settle for $200 (the average charge to modify a national fare).
Are you stuck on the Van Wyck or the 405 and miss your plane? No. You will not be placed on the next available ticket unless you are willing to buy a very costly "walk up" rate. Say good-bye to your wages. Usual ground rules don't work. The U.S. Department of Transportation's "free 24-hour cancellation" does not even count for these air fares.
If these D.O.T. cancelation regulations were applicable to non-transparent fares, a user could make a reservation without having knowledge of all the detail and then cancels it free of charge if the timetable, the carrier or other unfavourable circumstances occurred as soon as everything became known. Although Priceline's express fares are indeed almost always lower than the "published" fares, they are not always so much lower that it is always profitable to take a risk.
Looking for a New York-Los Angeles ticket for a September 9-11 journey, I found an obscure $306 price on Priceline, but Expedia had the same Frontier ticket data for $340 round trips (albeit with tedious departures and layovers). Apropos Frontier, if you buy a Priceline Express ticket and find that it is on Frontier Airlines, Spirit or Allegiant, you will be met with a charge for a carry-on luggage sack (about $50 these same days, round trip) that could eliminate some of the benefits.
Even non-transparent fares may not be suitable for earning frequency points or mileage, which could reduce their value to some people. Reserving a very cheap non-transparent business, in additon to an unwanted carrier or route, could also take you to the bottom of the line if something goes sour. Years ago I rented a NYOP room for a trip to L.A. on Priceline and landed at the Standard West Hollywood City.
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