Buying The Cheapest Airline Ticket
Unfortunately for weary travelers, there's no real shortcut to finding cheap airfare. As with any purchase, you need to shop around to get the best deal – But if you're willing to put in a little time and effort, you could save big on your next flight.
1. Buy Early
Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late in the game can cost you a lot of money. Airline ticket prices typically go up 21 days, 14 days, 7 days and 3 days before flying, so if you're planning ahead, try to make the call before these deadlines. And if you're traveling internationally, you'll want to book even earlier – from three to six months in advance – for the best deals. However, sometimes you can get lucky if you wait, which brings us to:
2. Buy Late
Often you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price, if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. Many airlines offer weekly newsletters that feature their best last-minute deals. You can also find many of them listed in our WhichAirline.Com weekly deals section.
3. Shop Around
No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you see. Start your search at WhichAirline.com If you don't see anything in your preferred price range, don't be afraid to bide your time and watch the fares for a bit.
4. Know When to Buy
The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Keep in mind that most airlines launch fare sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – so if you decide to buy on a Monday, you may be gnashing your teeth on Tuesday when your destination goes on sale.
5. Be Flexible
If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. Also, experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a week or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. You'll usually find the best deals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
6. Don't Forget the Discounters
As their nickname suggests, discount airlines such as Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines can save you a bundle, but they're not always easy to find. Luckily for consumers, discounters are cropping up more frequently on aggregators but there are still a few holdouts, such as Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air, whose fares can't be found anywhere but their own Web sites and WhichAirline.Com will offer. If you're traveling outside the U.S., don't forget to check the international discount airlines as well.
7. Use Your Frequent Flier Miles
Why pay a fare at all when you can use your frequent flier miles? Although redeeming miles has gotten more difficult in recent years, it's still a good option to consider, particularly if you're booking early; airlines designate a very limited number of seats on each flight as eligible for award travel, and these seats go quickly so if your going to cash in those miles book early.
8. Get a Refund When Fares Go Down
If fares go down after you've purchased your ticket, ask for a refund! You may not always get one, but policies vary by airline – and many do not publicize the fact that they will refund you the difference if prices go down. It can't hurt to ask.
9. Consider an Air Pass
In order to promote tourism in their countries, many national airlines offer air passes at reduced rates for tourists. If you're planning to do extensive travel in one country or region, an air pass might be your most cost-effective option. For example, Qantas Airways offers an Aussie AirPass for travel throughout Australia.
Petra Vaškových, May 15, 2011
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