5 Tips Score for Scoring Best Airfare

Five Tips to Scoring the Best Airfare

Travel to and from your destination is a pretty important part of the journey. Here five tips for scoring a great deal:

1. Happy Monday (and Tuesday)!

Southwest and JetBlue usually release new sales on Monday night after 8:00 p.m. and other airlines match these sales after 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Sign up for sale notifications from all the airlines so you’ll be amongst the first to find out when good deals become available. Seats are always limited at the lowest fares so act quickly.

2. The Southwest Effect

If low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue fly a route, check for fares from major competing airlines like United or Delta since they will usually match those fares. Also, investigate nearby airports for better deals. For example, Southwest flies to many cities in Florida from Baltimore Washington International Airport, offering lower fares than you might be able to find 45 minutes away at Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport. Sometimes the hike to an outlying airport can yield huge savings, well worth the cab ride or parking fees.

3. The Internet is your friend

If you can’t find a good deal on an airline’s website, try an online travel agency like Travelocity or Orbitz. It will search the cheapest fare for each leg of your trip. This means if American Airlines has the lowest fare on one leg and Delta on the return, it will be able to sell you a ticket combining both airlines; something you can’t do on an airline website.

Fares purchased 14 or 21 days before departure are usually the cheapest and target leisure travelers.

4. Competition is good

Always check for cheap fares in a competitor’s hub city. All the major airlines operate hubs, or focus cities, where they typically keep fares high. Competitors like to offer low fares in these markets in an attempt to gain some market share. Airlines are always battling each other so keep your eyes peeled for a bargain! One of Delta Airlines’ major hubs is Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport so competitors often offer low fares to stay in the game in Atlanta, Georgia.

5. To wait or not?

Airlines usually price their fares based on how many days before departure the ticket is purchased, this is known as the advance purchase requirement. Fares purchased 14 or 21 days before departure are usually the cheapest and target leisure travelers while those 10 days or less typically target the business traveler and can cost hundreds of dollars more. There are exceptions, but if you can plan a few days in advance you could save lots of money.

Bonus Tip
For international trips, “ticket consolidators” usually have the best deals—you lose flexibility but can save 20% or more over buying directly from an airline online. Try foreign travel agencies selling within their region of origin. For example, Indian travel agents have the best deals to India and Mexican consolidators may offer lower fares to Mexico and neighboring countries in Latin America.

Tarak Parikh is a native of Pittsburgh and a lifelong aviation enthusiast who has worked for over a decade in the airline industry doing everything from loading bags to developing airfare pricing strategies. He now lives outside of Washington DC and often hops aboard transatlantic flights to watch movies and sample the in-flight vegetarian meals!

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