I have gathered Airline Tips and Tricks from experience and research. Follow these tips and tricks to get the best pricing and deals.
How far in advance to book: Airfare is impossible to predict when you will get the lowest absolute price. This information is on historical data and a lot of factors can affect the price including destination, weather, the economy, supply and demand, holidays, etc.
In general if you have fixed dates book 1-2 months for domestic travel (at least 21 days in advance) and 3-4 for international. Prices will rapidly increase as the departure date approaches. Add an extra month for peak travel times, Christmas, Thanksgiving and even the Super Bowl Sunday for North America.
CheapAir believes the optimum day for a domestic ticket is 79 days, or seven weeks, in advance of departure. The fares decreased slowly until the 49-day point; after that, it increased slowly until 11 days in advance, when it spiked to 50% higher on the day before the flight. For international, the best time was 81 days, with good deals available 11 to 12 weeks in advance. However, they also found that some routes were cheapest when they first open (331 days in advance) and others were cheapest last minute.
Best day of the week to fly: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are consistently the cheapest day to fly. But, if you are taking more days off work v. flying on the weekend, and not getting paid for those days, then the cheaper option for you may be flying on the weekend.
Best day of the week to purchase tickets: Most major airlines post sales on Monday and then the other airlines try to match. By Tuesday afternoon most others have posted their best sales. These low prices sell fast and are usually sold out by Thursday. Best day to buy cheap tickets is usually Tuesday afternoon eastern time. Don’t ever buy airline tickets on a weekend unless it is a last minute deal.
Airline Tips #2: Be Flexible
Try to be Flexible: If you can be flexible on where and when you want to go it may be beneficial to wait very last minute to book a last minute deal. Sign up for last-minute fare alerts directly with the airlines or other travel websites for great discounts when the airlines can’t sell all of their seats on a flight they will drop the price. I find that these deals are better if you live in a major city like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, etc. but your local airline (in smaller cities) might have a few deals as well. For the more adventurous traveler, apps like HotelTonight (iOS) and AirBnB (iOS, Android) offer great rates on last-minute hotel, apartment, and even couch deals (when you stay in someones home for free).
Fly Low Season (Off Season) if possible: You can save a lot if you fly in low-season. The most expensive months for North America and parts of Europe are in the summer, June-August, when everyone is out of school. If you are a loyalty member and you fly low season the chance of getting upgrades is a lot higher. If you fly during the off season prices of hotels and attractions may be lower as well and you won’t get as big of a crowd. The downside is the weather usually won’t be as nice.
Close by Airports: Check for surroundings airports because you may be a couple hundred dollars less (more if you are flying international) if you are willing to drive a little further to and from an airport, depending on where you want to go. For example the Fort Lauderdale Airport may cost less to fly into rather than Miami and they are only 32 minutes away from each other. Most search engines or websites will allow you to check a box that says you are flexible on the date and/or airport. Doing this allows you to compare prices for different airports and dates and may allow you to pay less, or even get a better schedule than you would have originally.
Airline Tips #3: Compare Prices
Buying Direct is an Option: You can buy airline tickets direct from the airlines; United, Delta, Virgin, American, Southwest, Jet Blue, and Alaska, as well as a number of smaller, regional carriers.
Smaller airlines like Southwest and Allegiant in the US, and Ryanair in Europ,e may not be on the custom search engine sights that you normally use. So, make sure you check out smaller airlines’ websites too.
Allegiant Air has airports in quite a few cities in the United States. I have found great deals from Las Vegas to Hawaii, direct flights lower than any airlines out there. Their service is basic and you have to pay for any checked bags or snacks. Sign up for the airline’s newsletter by email or mobile app. They often contain deep discount offers. You can also follow them on Twitter.
Virgin and JetBlue both regularly give great deals through the social media services.
Price Check: When you predominately fly one carrier and you sign up on their frequent flyer program which I suggest you do, then you could be saving towards a free flight. However, when I have to pay for a flight I always price check fares.
Bundle: With a lot of the search engine sites, they will give you a discount if you bundle. Pay for Flight + Hotel or Flight + Hotel + Car Rental will save money too.
Where to Park when Flying: Save Money on Airport Parking by searching multiple airport parking lots at one time.
Airline Tips #4: Sign up for Alerts and Watch for Hidden Fees
Air Fare Alerts: Sign up with most major companies to be notified of one or more flight route price drops. Some companies also have apps for the smartphone. Small travel companies may also offer this service however they may not include Allegiant or Southwest
On Twitter every Tuesday JetBlue releases its JetBlue Cheeps for last-minute travel. There are other apps and airlines all over that will notify you when the prices drop.
Extra Fees: To avoid extra fees look for airlines that don’t charge fees for common services like baggage. Southwest allows two checked bags for free and JetBlue allows for one. A lot of airlines waive bag fees for frequent flyers or members of its credit-card program. Allegiant charges for everything liked checked bags. Make sure you take this into account when comparing prices.
Best Deals? There is one truth when it comes to travel, even in a bad economy: There will always be deals. While airfare prices continue to rise as airlines cut capacity and have to keep up with increasing fuel costs, consumers can still find ways to beat the system.
Some airlines have the option for you to sign up to get emailed when a certain fare price drops. This saves you the pain of having to check every day. When you do see a good fare, always compare prices across multiple sources.
Real Deal? Make sure you do your research. Scams are out there and some deals are really just gimmicks. Most likely if it is a reputable company you are usually fine. Always compare prices to double check you are getting a good deal. Check the fine print to see if there are any hidden fees, blackout dates or other hidden restrictions. Sometimes they hike the taxes so high that the deal you think was good is actually more expensive after taxes, baggage, etc.
Purchase tickets 1 at a time: All airline reservation systems require all travelers in the same group to pay the same price for the tickets even if one or more of the tickets can be sold at a lower price.
Go onto the search engine and search for a single person. Then open a new browser and search for multiple people. If the prices are the same, no need to book separately. If the price for the single person is lower, then in a new browser search for a single person again; keep searching until the price goes up. Once the price goes up then you know how many tickets are available at the lower price. When you are ready to purchase your tickets, do it on two separate browsers. Make sure you do the separate browsers simultaneously to ensure you get all the seats you need.
Refunds on Non-Refundable Flights: Depending on if it is the airline’s fault, the plane needs maintenance, or if it is an outside uncontrollable factor like bad weather, every airline’s policy varies. Most delays or cancellations within the airline’s control, passengers are entitled to be re-booked on the next available flight, transferred to another carrier, or they may receive a refund for the unused portion of the trip. Some airlines will provide meal vouchers, hotel stays, and ground transportation at their discretion.
When the situation is beyond the airline’s control, a refund is the most you could hope for. However, for major storms airlines try to notify you advance so you’re not stranded at the airport and they will allow you to rebook within a specific time frame without penalty. So, make sure they have your correct contact information.
When booking with miles you can usually get your miles back for a small fee and this is cheaper than buying a refundable ticket or insurance.
If a situation arises, the earlier you talk to the booking agents at the airport the more likely you will get on that next flight. When an airline is delayed, not everyone on that airline will be able to fit on the next available connecting flight. I have been on an airline where it needed an oil change. We waited a couple hours before we took off which made us miss our connecting flight. They told everyone with connections to speak to the airport when they arrive. However, while my husband and I were waiting for the oil to be changed, we made the initiative to get on the waiting list for the next flight. The last thing we wanted to do was spend a night at the airport. We were able to get on the next connecting flight while 33 or more passengers were on the waiting list and had to stay the night at the airport. It also helped that we had flight status with Delta. The Airlines really do try to reward you for your loyalty.
24 hour free cancellation policy: The Department of Transportation has a rule on all major airlines that you can cancel within 24 hours free of charge.
Is Travel Insurance Worth the Money? If you’re taking a short trip and haven’t paid a ton for it, you most likely will be fine without the insurance. A lot of airlines and hotels will allow you to rebook when there’s a widespread storm or incident. Also most airlines allow you to rebook if they make a change to your itinerary. Changing the time of departure or arrival minutes here and there is common and this allows you rebook if it isn’t the time you signed up for. But, this does not mean you can get a refund and cancel the air fare for personal matters.
If you have made a huge investment in your trip or face high risk of cancellation, or if you have a potential medical condition, insurance is a great idea. If you purchase Travelers Cancellation Insurance (TCI) make sure you know what is included and more importantly what’s not included. Some Insurances won’t be valid if there is a predicted storm or if you have a pre-existing medical condition. The policies that allow you to cancel for any reason are more expensive.
Keep in mind that when you use sky miles it is like insurance because if you can’t go on a flight, you get your miles back for a small fee up to a certain point before the trip. Even if you had to lose miles, it is better than losing money. With companion tickets sometimes you are able to re-schedule with the same airline.
The only time I purchased TCI was for a vacation to Hong Kong and China and it was the only time I actually needed to use it. It was a family trip with my husband, parents and siblings. Because it was a large group we decided to purchase the insurance. My mom ended up getting breast cancer and would have been in chemo at the time of the vacation. We were able to cancel and get our money back. I have never needed or used the insurance since then, but we were really glad we had it at that time.
Guaranteed Lowest Price
Some companies offer a guarantee that they are the lowest price and if not they will make it up to you. These guaranteed deals are hard to match and I don’t know anyone who has actually used them, but they are worth a shot.
CheapOAir has a best price guarantee where they guarantee the best fare for 24 hours. In the unlikely event that you find a lower rate on CheapOair or on another U.S.-based website for the same itinerary within 24 hours of booking with CheapOair, we will either cancel your current itinerary and provide you a full refund, or, at our discretion, refund you the entire difference in price.
Expedia offers a guarantee, but the price has to drop within the first 24 hrs after your purchase.
Hotwire Within 48 hours of booking, if you find a lower rate for an identical booking, we’ll pay you the difference between the rates.
Orbitz offers a credit up to 110% of the difference however an identical itinerary has to be bought though Orbitz to get the deal.