Cheap Flights - Find the Lowest Airfares Online
Now that air travel is back in full swing, demand for flights is high. So finding the cheapest airfare for your business or pleasure trip takes a bit of cunning. It also helps to use specialized online search tools. But sometimes getting the cheapest flights has more to do with timing than tools. Here's what you need to know (TODAY) before booking your next flight, in order to get the lowest fares possible. I also have some nifty online tools for flyers. Read on...
Want to Book a Cheap Flight? Here's How..
First, book your flight well in advance; at least two weeks before departure. You would think that airlines would drop the price of unsold seats as the departure time nears; after all, the risk that the seats will go unsold is increasing with each passing minute. But in reality, travelers will pay more when they have to fly on short notice. A family emergency or urgent business deal compels travelers to pay whatever it takes.
Avoid flying during peak times. Most business travelers fly on Mondays and Fridays. Many pleasure trips are booked on weekends. So if at all possible, you should fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday to get the lowest airfare.
According to a study done by FareCompare, Friday and Sunday the most expensive days to travel, and the best time to find a cheap flight is Tuesday at 3pm Eastern. Yes, they actually found that shopping on a Tuesday will yield the best deals on airline tickets, and that most discounted airfare deals disappear by Thursday. You can find some other interesting tips from travel insiders at the FareCompare site.
Flying early or late in the day can also save you money. So-called "red-eye specials" are the earliest flights of each day, and they can be much cheaper than flights that depart at a decent hour. Be aware of the different airports near your destination and departing point. Typically, flights are more expensive out of the busiest airport in an area. It may be worth your while to drive an extra hour to a lesser-used airport. Also consider the cost of parking may be much less at a smaller airport.
When I fly out of New York city airports, I always use off-site parking with a shuttle service to the departure area. It tends to be significantly cheaper and also involves a lot less luggage lugging. The Parking Spot is one company that provides off-site parking for airports in Atlanta, Nashville, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Newark, Houston, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and a few other cities.
Accept layovers to get the lowest airfare. Everyone wants non-stop flights, and they're priced accordingly. Connecting flights may leave you killing a couple of hours in some second-tier airport, but they can save you significant cash overall. But beware that connecting flights increase the chances that your luggage fails to change planes with you. The NY Times wrote about lost luggage problems caused by high air travel demand and airport staffing shortages. They have some tips on what to do if your bag doesn’t arrive when you do.
Cheap Flight Search Engines
Does it matter whether you book your flight through Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, or another online ticketing agency? It does, but not in any consistent way. One of these sites will pick up deals that another misses, but coverage varies randomly. The best thing to do is compare the best deals from all of the major ticketing sites simultaneously. That's where travel search engines come in.
Google Flights uses a unique calendar-based approach to help you figure out which departure day would save you the most money. Google Flights will also tell you the average legroom, and if Wi-Fi, in-seat power and on-demand video are available on your flight. An Android app will check the current price of your “saved itinerary” at any time, and if the price drops dramatically Google will send you an email alert. Google Flights provides you with direct links and phone numbers to the airline(s) so you can book and pay for the flight without involving a middleman markup.
Kayak is one travel search engine. It lets you input your travel criteria just once, then it searches multiple ticketing agency sites for you. Kayak can also set a price-reduction alert after you book your flight, which will notify you any reduction in the fare that occurs after you book. You may be able to take advantage of such savings.
CheapOair is an airfare price comparison tool you might find useful. If you worry about booking a flight today and then finding a lower price tomorrow, CheapOair's Price Match Promise will give you a confidence boost. If you see a lower price for the same flight available for booking on a major competitor’s site (Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline or Travelocity) within twenty-four hours of booking, they will give you the option of refunding the difference in price, or cancelling your booking with a full refund.
AirfareWatchdog is another tool you may find useful. It lists low fares that their community of users find and verify. You can sign up for free city-to-city fare alerts, or "Anywhere That's Cheap" alerts, if you just want to get away, and you don't care where.
Hopper is a mobile app that analyzes historical flight data to predict future prices. It will suggest the best times to look for and book the cheapest flights. Hopper claims to be the most downloaded travel app in North America.
Secret Flying is like having a friend in the travel business who knows about the cheapest flights and best deals. They often find super-low "error fares" which are accidentally posted online by the airlines, but usually honored anyway. You can also sign up to be notified of cheap flight deals by email.
During the booking process, check with SeatGuru to find out which seats are the best seats on the plane, which are the ones to avoid, based on seat width, leg room, power outlets and other factors. If only there was a website that could predict whether the person in the seat next to you was likely to take off their shoes, have a screaming baby, or bring along an emotional support peacock.
I seem to have a knack for getting seats next to service animals. Once I shared an aisle with a nervous woman and her even more nervous poodle. On another flight I sat next to a blind guy who brought a service pony on board. Surprisingly, he turned out to be a very polite neigh-bor.
Other Considerations for Finding Cheap Flights
Although I can't confirm this, I've heard that you should delete your cookies before going back to an airfare site that you've used before. Apparently, they will raise their prices if they can tell you're a regular. Using the Private Browsing or Incognito feature of your browser should have the same effect. And some studies have found that shopping for airfare or hotel accomodations on your mobile phone will yield a lower price than the same searches on your desktop. That's an easy test. I've also seen claims that iPhone users may see higher prices than those with Android-powered phones.
Here are a few other tips to find cheap flights. If you frequently travel with a specific airline, join their loyalty program and earn miles or points that can be redeemed for perks such as discounted flights, free wi-fi, or seat upgrades. You should also look for discounts that apply to students, senior citizens, or members of the military. Some airlines offer special fares, early boarding, or other perks for these groups.
Remember that airfare is only one component of a trip's cost. Many travel sites offer bundled deals on air travel, hotels, car rentals, and destination attractions. The money you save on the ground may be more than the cost of your airline tickets. If you do plan to rent a car, look for a provider that allows you to book a car in advance, skip the line at the airport, and then go directly to pick up your car.
More Online Tools for Flyers
Okay, your trip is planned, and the departure day has arrived. You drive like a fool to the airport and then, you wait. But for how long? If you're flying from or to an airport in North America, Uncle Sam has some stats that may help to answer that question. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has detailed information regarding airline punctuality. To find out how likely you are to encounter a delay with your airline, check the Transportation Statistics website.
If you make it through the security checkpoint without setting off any lights or buzzers, you can proceed to the gate, and wait some more. The Federal Aviation Administration has a website that offers data on arrival and departure delays at most major airports. A graphical display shows green, yellow, orange and red dots to indicate how long you may have to wait in the airport, or on the plane for take-off and landing. View Arrival & Departure Delays online.
Are you meeting a friend at the airport? Track a flight, with this graphical real-time monitor that shows the flight path on a map, along with the aircraft's altitude, speed and estimated arrival time. Try the FlightAware Flight Tracker.
Got any tips on finding low cost airfares, or dealing with the hassles of flying? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Jan 2024
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Cheap Flights - Find the Lowest Airfares Online (Posted: 23 Jan 2024)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved