Trying to find cheap air line tickets is a bit like gambling — you will never know if the airfare deal you find is the absolute lowest price until after your cards are on the table, and you purchase the tickets.
Airplane ticket prices change quickly especially for the most popular routes and busiest travel times. Airlines add lower priced tickets, or take them away, seemingly at will.
And to further complicate finding your cheap air line tickets, the lowest priced tickets may add to your travel costs if you have long layovers in multiple airports or have excessive airline fees.
Here are a few tips to help you plan your maneuvers to find the best airfare deals:
The major airlines release their airplane tickets for sale 330 days in advance. If you are planning to begin your 2015 vacation on June 13 and return on June 27, the airplane tickets will be available for sale 330 days before June 27, 2015. Some of the small and “discount” domestic airlines, like SouthWest, do not follow this rule.
Most international carrier do not follow this rule and release their tickets 365 days in advance. But, you won’t be able to include domestic US flights to connect to an international carrier until 330 days before your planned return.
For the most part, prices are lowest when the tickets are released. Seats on each airplane are assigned to different fare classes (each airline has its own system so this becomes very confusing very quickly) with only a fixed number of seats in each class. The lowest priced fare classes sell out soon and once these fares are gone, the price of a ticket goes up – unless the airline assigns more availability to the class.
Supply and demand prevails. If the seats on the flight are selling well, the airline may decide to only offer the higher fare classes for the remaining seats. Or they might decide to lower prices to stimulate sales. There is no way to know before it happens.
If you are planning to travel during a major holiday or the popular school vacations, the lowest fares sell out quickly and few, if any, airlines have special sales. The earlier you buy your tickets, the lower the cost of your tickets will be.
Mid-week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) travel tends to be less expensive. Many airlines add a surcharge, between $20 – 40 per ticket, for weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) travel, but this policy seems to be disappearing.
We’ve found recently that the cheapest tickets include a departure on Sunday. When searching for your cheap air line tickets, you will have more chances to find the best fare by having flexible dates, 1 or 2 days before and after your preferred dates, for your departure and return flights.
Hint: You may find the lowest fares on carriers that do not have daily flights to your destination when you’re flexible with your dates.
Pricing for international flights varies according to the season. Flights to Europe are always less in winter; pricing for flights to New Zealand and Australia is typically lowest in May and August.
You will usually find that flights to and from the largest airports (JFK in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) and airlines’ hub airports (such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Charlotte) have the best pricing – but not always. Check pricing and availability from alternate airports close to you.
When using airfare booking engines, use a wide search for airports to pull up as many departure choices as possible. For example, using the 3 letter airport code “WAS” will search for Dulles and Reagan airports in Washington, DC in addition to the Baltimore airport. Make a list of the airports near you to include in your search.
Minimizing the number of plane changes can save you money. Every time a plane lands at an airport, taxes and fees are added to a ticket. Recent US government regulations require full disclosure of all taxes and airport fees. Make sure you compare prices with taxes included – there can be a huge difference in total cost, depending on the route.
Rules, Rules and Rules
“Rules” include all the conditions and fees associated with each ticket. Remember to read the rules to learn whether the ticket is refundable, cancel-able, changeable – and the cost of penalties and fees for changes. Take the time to read the “rules” for the tickets to ensure you know exactly what you are buying. What looks like the cheapest air fare could become the most expensive if an emergency arises and the change fees are $350 per ticket.
Remember to check your flights 24-48 hours before departure. Departure and arrival times change; airlines overbook.
An airplane ticket has no value if it is not cancelled or used by the scheduled departure time for the flight. If you find that you are unable to make your flight, call the airline and cancel the flight or try to change it. If you wait until after the flight departs, your ticket will have no value; if you call before the flight leaves, the airline may work with you to find an alternative and salvage some of the value of the ticket.
Most Important –
Set a limit on how much time you will spend on your search for cheap air line tickets. While you are checking for even lower fares, the ticket prices may rise.