Los Angeles Hotels Blog

August 18, 2010

How and Where to Find Cheap Airfare on the Internet

Below are some very simple and straight forward strategies you can use when searching for cheap airfare or discount airline tickets. Best of all the strategies cost you nothing and may save you not only money but also time.

Book early but not too early

Airlines will give you a better deal the further out you book. But keep in mind not to book too far in advance as you may miss any fare wars etc. For domestic US travel use the airfare prediction site FareCast to see where fares are headed.

Be flexible

As a general rule traveling Mondays – Thursdays will give you a better deal as most carriers charge more for weekend travel.

Saturday night stay

This is more important in international travel. Almost all cheap international fares require a Saturday night stay. In the US domestic markets Saturday night stay requirements have to the most extent become a thing of the past.

Alternative airports

Domestic US: Great way to shop for lower airfare is to check fares out of or into alternative airports. For example, if you wanted to go from Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles (LAX) you may also check fares from Providence (PVD), Manchester (MHT)or Hartford (BDL) and into Orange County (SNA), Long Beach (LGB)or Ontario (ONT). Some sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity offer search tools that automatically search for cheaper fares for alternative airport. Again, the more flexible you are the more likely you will find a deal.

International: Finding an alternative airport can save you some serious money but it does require some research and “thinking outside the box.” Here are a couple of examples. When traveling to Germany considering Dusseldorf (DUS) as an alternate to Frankfurt could save you over $50 per person in taxes and fees. Germany’s second largest carrier LTU flies nonstop to DUS from several major US departure cities. Check out Brussels (BRU) or Luxemburg (LUX) as alternates to Paris (PAR).

Buying a round trip ticket

Buying a round trip ticket is almost always cheaper tan buying a one-way ticket. This may not be true for tickets that are purchased last minute or on flights that are almost sold out. Some carriers such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue price their fares on a one-way basis.

Travel off-season

If your travel is for leisure, you can often find lower rates for off-season fares. If circumstances allow be creative in your vacation planning, and you could save big bucks over time. For example, good times to travel to Europe are usually the first 2 weeks in December and January through March. Also, when planning summer travel to Europe try to depart before May 20. Most carriers switch from shoulder season to high season fares sometime between May 20 and 25. For domestic travel, school vacation, public holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving are considered peak travel periods and fares tend to go up.

Below are some online website resources for finding cheap airfare.

Online Newsletters

By subscribing to some of the more reputable newsletters such as TravelZoo or Smarter Travel you have great and updated access to travel deals on a weekly basis. Many airlines frequently announce new sales or deals online and you want to know about them as soon as possible. The publishers of these newsletters often receive payment from vendors for placement.

Yet Undiscovered Deal Sites

Some of the least know sites may have the “in” to the absolute best deals. One of these sites is Airfarewatchdog. This site has now been around for about 2 years and it specializes in unearthing unadvertised airfare specials. This site is run by George Hobica, a travel journalist with over 25 years of experience in the travel industry. He is a true fanatic about finding incredible airfares.

Cheap Airfare Prediction

While still in a beta phase FareCast promises to truly revolutionize the way we buy airfare and it allows some sort of parity when looking for the best time to buy. They also offer FareGuard which allows you to protect your low fare against future fare increases. To date they cover about 75 US domestic airports.

Low Fare Alerts and Flex Searches

Several of the online travel agency websites also offer low fare alerts. With Travelocity you can see fares from your departure city that have dropped by 20% or more. Alternatively you can use the Fare Finder Search to see a listing of low fares without first having to commit to travel dates. Cheaptickets allows you to set a target price for your trip; once one or more airlines offer fares at or below your target level Cheaptickets will post an alert you. Expedia also offers a flexible date search. While limited in scope this calendar based feature is pretty easy to use (make sure to check “My dates are flexible”) and quickly shows you cheap fares.

Name Your Own Airfare and White Label Fares

In addition to searching for regular published airfare Priceline allows you to “name your own airfare”. Hotwire offers white label fares. In each scenario you do not know the carrier, flights times or the exact routing. With Priceline you basically bid what it is you are willing to pay for a ticket. Once you submit a bid Priceline will see if there is a carrier willing to sell you a ticket at that price (beware: THEY YOUR OFFER IS BINDING if accepted). With Hotwire you will be offered a white label fare. Again, you do not know the carrier, flights times and exact routing. Once you decide to buy there is “NO WAY BACK” If you do not like the flights details. So, either site can save you a bundle but make sure you can stomach the consequences and be flexible.

Flying Abroad? Check Consolidators

Consolidators basically negotiate airfares directly with carriers. These are unpublished (I.e. the airlines do not publish these fares) and can only be purchased from the consolidator. Some consolidators only re-sell these to travel agents while others sell directly to the public. One of the best retail sources for consolidated airfare anywhere is www.FlightsFirst.com.

Compare Apples to Apples

IMPORTANT: When comparing fares from different sites or vendors make sure to consider all the elements. In order to get the full picture of how much a trip is going to cost you must take all taxes, fees, fuel surcharges, and services charges into account. While the base fare maybe the same at two sites taking the above into account could save you some serious money. This is especially true when traveling overseas or to Central and South America.

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