12 ways to land lower airfares

Prices are taking off, but there are still ways to get good deals.

By Stacy Johnson Nov 9, 2012 12:08PM

This post comes from Amanda Geronikos at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News logoAirfares are taking off. According to Travelocity, the average round-trip domestic airfare this Thanksgiving is $386, up 9% from last year. But if you have the will, there's always a way to land an airfare bargain.

 

If your itinerary for travel savings begins and ends with a trip to an online travel agent like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity, you could easily miss out on a lower fare. You could also miss out if you confine your search to sites that aggregate fares, like Cheapflights, Kayak or Mobissimo. That's because the best fares might be available from the place many travelers neglect to check -- the airlines themselves. 

Woman using computer on airplane © Compassionate Eye Foundation, Lifesize, Getty ImagesSome airlines have been offering lower prices on their websites to keep fliers from online agencies and aggregator sites. The reason is simple: They want to avoid paying commissions of roughly $10 to $25 per ticket.

 

Toronto-based Porter Airlines, for example, offers savings of up to 50% on its website. Southwest, the lowest-cost carrier in many markets, doesn't offer fares on sites other than its own.

 

At least one other airline isn't stopping with incentives. Frontier Airlines recently announced that failing to book from its site will result in half the frequent-flier miles, higher fees and no ability to get a seat assignment until check-in.

 

Bottom line? If your goal is the best possible deal, you might not find it with one-stop shopping.  Use an online agency or aggregator to see the options, but don't book until you also check the airline's site.

 

Here are 11 more tips for extra savings:

  • Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter and Facebook. Many airlines tweet hourly, offering information about deals and discounted fares.
  • Sign up for email alerts. Sign up for deal alerts to be emailed or texted to you. I get weekly emails from Airfarewatchdog to stay informed about the lowest fares out of my local airport. You can also personalize your settings so you'll be alerted when that flight to Aruba drops in price. Some other options for alerts: Smartertravel.com and TripAdvisor.com/Flights. 
  • Look for discount codes. Don't ever buy a plane ticket (or anything else) without searching for a coupon code. It only takes a few seconds. Simply go to your favorite search engine and type in "(airline) promo code." And if you need them, check for promo codes on rental cars and hotels while you're at it.
  • Fly on less popular days and times. The least expensive flights tend to be early morning Tuesday or Wednesday. Airlines tend to charge less for the first flight out each day, and weekly price wars among airlines work in your favor on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Consider traveling in shoulder seasons. Going to Europe? Consider flying in late August or September, when prices tend to drop. Early December and after mid-April are good times to find lower fares for the Caribbean.
  • Consider crowdsourcing. Check a site called Flightfox, run by experts (also known as "flight hackers") who compete to find you the best flight. Finder's fees start at $24, but if you aren't satisfied, the service is 100% refundable.
  • Compare airports. Being picky about airports can cost you. That's why travel search engines like Kayak include a little box that says "add nearby airports." Check it and you might see lower rates. For example, we found a round-trip ticket from Miami to Los Angeles for $430 the week before Christmas, but the fare was $389 flying out of Fort Lauderdale instead.
  • Use your frequent-flier miles. If you're not already enrolled in a frequent-flier program, you might want to sign up for one. When deciding which one to use, consider where you'll be flying frequently and which airlines you'll travel with. Also consider what type of tickets you'll be buying and if the airline offers useful upgrades for you.
  • Avoid baggage fees. Choose an airline that has a low-cost or no-cost baggage policy. If you fly Southwest, you can check two bags for free. With JetBlue, you'll get one bag for free. 
  • Book early. Planning ahead can give you a good jump on savings. Rates start rising two weeks from the flight date, according to FareCompare.com. They recommend booking two to 12 weeks out.
  • Name your own price. Sites like Priceline.com let you make the price offer, but require flexibility in exchange: You don't know the airline, departure time, or layovers until you buy. You also can't earn frequent-flier miles. The price can be significantly lower than published fares, though -- up to 50% in some cases.

More stories on Money Talks News and MSN Money

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

20Comments
Nov 16, 2012 8:56PM
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SO true!  And a further note.  If you see that your flight is actually being serviced by another airline carrier, stop and go directly to that other airline's site ... it is likely that buying the flight directly through the other carrier is cheaper AND often they take your frequent flier number.  Saved me $200 recently booking directly with US Airways vs. United serviced by US Airways.
Nov 16, 2012 9:44PM
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Frontier and Delta still allow a free carry on bag and one item to stow under the seat as long as you are in a 727 or larger Embraer.  I stick to these carriers.  I go with just one carry on item that has 3 days of clothing changes and all my ham radio stuff. Pack your least favorite underwear and socks.  I can wear shirts and jeans more than one day.  With underwear, I throw the ones I'm wearing away each day.  Socks become great packing material for the drink glasses I'll remove from the casinos (Vegas).  I buy the usual amounts of gifts, Hard Rock shirts, and crap on all trips. I go behind the hotel and look for medium sized wine boxes.  They are double walled and very strong.  I put all that stuff, along with the dirty clothes I just cannot wear and find the local UPS store and send it home.  It usually runs around $15 shipping but that's a huge bargain considering not carrying that junk on the plane with me.  The return trip is even lighter than going.  I have been known to ship everything and just walk on the plane with just me.  But DO NOT DO THAT IN TODAY'S TIME.  They will actually arrest you and take you downtown to hq for the 3rd degree.  Always take at least a carry on bag with some clothes.

Nov 16, 2012 8:29PM
Nov 17, 2012 12:39AM
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This article must be for the beginner. I cannot imagine that it is helpful to anyone who is even a semi-seasoned traveler.
Nov 16, 2012 11:29PM
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How about the most obvious way to save... use a reputable Travel Agency!

Althought they may charge a fee for their services, their knowledge and resources are invaluable and often result in savings on multiple levels.

Nov 17, 2012 12:42AM
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What about Priceline I have always used them since they have existed. I know it is not quite as fast and you have to bid it but thats how you get awesome priced tickets. I usually look around for a few before hand then bid an absolutely ludicrous low bid and move up by 5-10 per pop as soon as I get an answer.
Nov 16, 2012 7:13PM
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The facts are that there are lighter and stronger metals made for the aircraft industry but the Jet engines still consume too much fuel, to fast. The old American Airlines Condor Plane might be old fashioned but it still has more luxury than these modern jets. I would like to see an old Galaxy aircraft rebuilt with our modern technology but then too, it would not have jet engines so not only would be slower but it would cost less to build, be a cheaper fare for passengers and offer a more relaxing luxurious ambiance but it would force these Major Airlines to cut stupid promos like these in the media of current events. 
Nov 17, 2012 1:18AM
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Here's an idea, offer the cheaper flight and you'll get all the business. We shouldn't have to shop around and search for promos and discount codes! Offer the cheapest flight and watch what happens. Go back to basics people. You know, the way to attract customers before your greed went into effect.
Nov 17, 2012 2:30AM
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I've tried all these tips in the past and they haven't helped me much. I guess it has a lot to do with my departure airport. I'm not in a good location for non-stop flights to Europe and the nearest alternative airports are 500+ miles away. Call me crazy, but I don't think it's right to pay two to three times the cost of 7-day cruise just to get to the departure city of your cruise.
Nov 16, 2012 11:13PM
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Don't fly nothing ischeaper than that.
Nov 16, 2012 5:56PM
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I rather take a beating than even get on a plane anymore.  If the distance is 1000 miles or less, I'll just drive.  If it's farther than that or overseas, I'll just stay home.
Nov 16, 2012 8:42PM
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Stop flying period. It is killing the planet, the planes use fossil fuels and  pollute the earth. 

Nov 16, 2012 5:44PM
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Better fly now cause by ther end of next year nobody will be able to afford to in this country they will probably shut down most of the airports also ! Thanks Barrack-a-clause !
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