How to Score Cheap Airfare

For the full article :  Finding Cheap Airfare


Before you do anything, sign up for free airfare alerts
I’m a fan of this service, obviously, as founder of
Airfarewatchdog, but seriously, why do all the work hunting down a low airfare
yourself when you can have someone else do it for free?
Many airfare search and listing sites, such as Travelocity.com,Yapta.com, TripAdvisor.com/Flights, Bing.com/travel (and,
of course, Airfarewatchdog.com) offer e-mailed airfare alerts when prices
go down. This is just a partial list; do a browser search for “airfare
alerts” to see what’s available.


Get e-mail from your airlines
Next, sign up for e-mails and frequent flier programs from as many
airlines as you can tolerate. Sure, you already get enough e-mail, but you want
to fly cheaply, right?
Here’s why: Airlines are trying to woo customers to book directly
with them by offering special deals when you sign up for their newsletters and
e-mail lists. One way they do this is by offering “promo code” deals
that are redeemable only on their websites.
It might be 10% off, or $10 off, or even a half-price sale.
JetBlue recently sent out a 20%-off systemwide promo code. They also alert you
to special deals that can be booked only on their websites or that are
available only to members of their loyalty programs.
Once that’s done, let the search begin.

Ask yourself this question: Are you a flexible flier?
If you answer yes, you’re in luck, because you’ll get the lowest
airfares.
Let’s say you’ve been promising your sister you’d visit her sometimethis year. But whenever
you search for a good airfare, the prices are out of reach. If it doesn’t
really matter when you go, then you need to search on a website that caters to
those with flexible travel dates.
Start by clicking over to Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, Hotwire.com orCheaptickets.com (all
of which are online travel agencies, or OTAs in industry parlance), and check
the “flexible dates” button or link.
On Travelocity, enter your origin and destination and hit search.
You’ll see the lowest published fares for travel dates up to 330 days into the
future. You’ll then need to click on the fare calendars to see when those fares
are available.
Orbitz, Hotwire and Cheaptickets do a flexible date search over
any 30-day period you choose. (Keep in mind that American Airlines is not
currently listed on Orbitz but is back on Hotwire and Expedia.)
After you find a fare, see if Southwest, which lists its fares
only on itsSouthwest.com website,
has a better deal (remember that Southwest doesn’t charge for the first two
checked bags, so you need to factor that in as well as the fare). Southwest,
too, has an excellent flexible date tool (look for “Low Fare
Calendar” on the site’s homepage).
And check out AllegiantAir.com to
see if Allegiant Airlines flies where you’re headed, since it, too, sells
tickets only on its own website.
What if you’re not flexible in your travel dates? The
above-mentioned sites can be helpful in that case as well, but you also might
want to try sites such as Kayak.com, Tripadvisor.com/Flights, and Momondo.com.
These are “meta search” fare sites, and although they
don’t offer quite the travel date flexibility as some others do, they often
include fares that the airlines sell only on their own websites. None of them
include Southwest’s fares, however, or fares on the smaller but growing
Allegiant Airlines.
Don’t overlook online travel agencies (OTAs)
A lot of people swear by searching directly on airline websites
rather than third-party sites such as Expedia, and I get this. But online
travel agencies can sometimes do a better job. They’ll let you know if the best
deal is on a combination of airlines (say, going out on US Airways and coming
back on United) and they also show the widest range of schedules and fares.
Plus, they offer air-plus-hotel packages that can sometimes save you serious
cash.

Don’t overlook business-class fares to Europe this summer
Sounds crazy, but American Airlines last month had business-class
fares to Europe for peak summer travel at prices lower than economy class for
the same dates. (Oddly, Travelocity had these deals, and Kayak didn’t.)

Airline websites sometimes have the best fares
Next stop: your airline’s website. Increasingly, airlines aren’t
sharing their very best fares with third-party sites such as Orbitz and Kayak.
Case in point: Recent fares to London from the West Coast for $420 round-trip,
including tax, were available only on Spanish airline Iberia’s website.
(Similar fares were twice that elsewhere.) So once you’ve found a fare,
definitely check airline sites directly rather than assuming your favorite
third-party site will have all the best deals.

Watch for promo codes
See those little promo code boxes on your favorite airline’s
website? What’s that all about? From time to time, you’ll receive promo codes
in your e-mail because you signed up for e-mail from your favorite airlines and
online travel agencies. These codes can be redeemed only if you book directly
on the airlines’ websites, another way they try to build consumer loyalty and
cut out the middleman.

the best last-minute airfares
You’ll often get the best fares if you book at least seven to 21
days ahead of departure. But what if you don’t have that luxury? Other than the
airlines’ last-minute weekend fares, which you can find on their sites, your
best bet is Priceline.com’s “Name
your own price” feature or Hotwire.com. Also take a look at Lastminute.com, which
packages last-minute airfares with hotel and rental car deals. Amazingly, the
cost of these packages is often less than what you’d pay for airfare alone.

When to use a real live travel agent
There is another way to find a low airfare, and it’s one your
mother probably used. Pick up the phone and call a local travel agent, the kind
with a real storefront. As good as do-it-yourself online sources can be, your
friendly neighborhood travel agent may have some tricks up her sleeve to save
you money.
Let’s say, for example, that you get an airfare alert that fares
from Houston to Honolulu are $800 round-trip. But who knew that the same trip,
same dates, from Dallas is $300? Or that you can fly from Houston to Dallas for
$100 and connect onward? Travel agents also sell “consolidator”
airfares, which are heavily discounted deals (mostly on international flights).
These fares come with more restrictions but can save you money.
Brick-and-mortar travel agents often charge for their services,
but they can also find you amazing package deals, and the savings can be
tremendous.

Is there a “magic” hour or day to buy?
It’s true that the airlines’ weekend deals come out Monday to
Wednesday, and some airlines announce their sales early in the week, but if you
limit yourself to searching just on those days, you’ll miss out.
A good fare can pop up literally any moment of the week. And if
you search one minute or one day and the fare is way too high, don’t despair.
Come back an hour or two or a day or two later and search again. Not only do
airfares change with the wind, but the number of seats offered at the lowest
fares changes as well, based on supply and demand.

Best days to travel
Although a low airfare can pop up
anytime, one thing’s for certain: It’s cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or
Wednesday. Saturday is also a low-fare day. If traveling internationally,
Monday to Wednesday is often the sweet spot.

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