Cheap Airfare Tips: 9 Pieces of Advice That’ll Get You Flights for Less

Air, Finances & Savings, Getting There Deals, Leaving & Coming Home — By on August 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

There is no magic bullet for buying airfare.  Arm yourself with knowledge and spend a little time checking out all of your options.  Perhaps most importantly, when you find a fare you’re happy with, buy it and don’t look back.  Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.

By Nancy Yeomans
LG Air Travel Editor

Sometimes it seems like there’s little rhyme or reason to airfare pricing. We all know how good it feels to click the “buy” button on a cheap air ticket, but we also know that punched-in-the-gut feeling when we’ve paid too much.  As a travel professional, the question I get asked most often is “How can I get the best price on my flight from point A to point B”?  The bad news is, there is no good answer.  (Sorry ladies!) But, the good news is, with a little patience, perseverance and these 9 tips, scoring a good air ticket deal is feasible.

1.  Research, Research, Research

There’s generally a ‘normal’ price for any flight.  No, no matter how hard you look, you’re probably not going to see a roundtrip flight from New York to Paris for $300. ($700 is typical). If you keep tabs on regular flights, you’ll begin to recognize a good deal for the value of the trip. So when a $450 ticket from NYC to Paris  pops up, you won’t pass it up, even though it is still $450. Know what price range your flight usually falls into so you recognize a great fare when you stumble across it.

Quick Tip: If you need to travel around any major holidays or during high season (June-August) expect the price to be higher, so take that into consideration.

For more tips on buying tickets during the holiday season click here.

2. Technology is Your Air Fare Friend

There are any number of airfare aggregator sites out there but some are far more useful than others.  Two of the best are Bing and Yapta.  You’ll have to register to use their features, but both sites allow you to sign up for flight alerts letting you know when your requested itinerary goes up or down in price.  Bing does this best by including a fare predictor notifying you when the optimal time to buy is.  Yapta allows you to sign up for their refund tracker in which certain airlines will send you a refund if your flight goes down in price.

3. Be Thorough

You will have to invest some time, but it could pay off.  As mentioned above, there are lots of aggregator sites out there and they don’t always have the same prices.  If you want the best deal, take the time to check them all out…and don’t neglect each individual airline’s website.  I recently found a ticket on the USAIR website for $60 less than it was on Consider all options.

4. Think Unique

Some airlines won’t show up at all on the big airline search sites.  And they’re often the ones that may offer a great price.  If you’re planning on flying to a destination that one of the lesser known airlines serve, always check their individual websites too.  Southwest Airlines is a prime example.  Southwest has ‘DING’ fares…sign up for this feature and you’ll get daily fare specials tailored to the airports you’re interested in.    A bonus with Southwest is if your ticket sells for a less expensive price after you’ve bought it you can buy the cheaper one and have the balance applied to future travel.

5. Go One-Way

I’d be willing to bet that you usually think in terms of a round-trip airline ticket.  It used to be that a one-way ticket cost even more than the round trip.  Well, not anymore.  So many times your best bet for a good fare lies in flying with a different airline each way.  When you’re doing your airfare search, plug in ‘one-way’ into the parameters and see if you can score a cheaper price for the trip in segments.

6. Be Flexible

If you’re not tied to a specific time or day to fly, you can sometimes save tens, maybe even hundreds of dollars by adjusting your flight time.  There really are no hard and fast rules such as  ‘always fly on Tuesdays’, but if you have some sort of wiggle room with respect to when you can travel you will most likely find a better fare.  My upcoming Cancun trip over Thanksgiving week is costing me $150 less by flying home on Friday instead of Saturday.

7. Explore Alternatives

If you can be even more flexible than above, consider an alternate airport near to your preferred airport.  Many major airports have less busy airport within an hour’s drive…think Chicago’s Midway Airport rather than O’Hare.  These often are served by low-cost carriers and can save you big bucks on your airfare.

Quick Tip: Airport parking usually costs less at these smaller airports also.

8. Be Sneaky When it Comes to Ticket- Extras

We’ve all heard about the airlines adding additional fees for everything from baggage to seat selection.  Don’t forget to take all of these possible fees into account when comparing airfare prices.  Add a couple of carry-on bags, an exit row seat and a lousy airline blanket and you’re looking at well over $100 dollars in addition to the cost of your ticket.  Beat this by knowing the fee structure of whichever airline you’re considering, which you can find on their website.

9. Be Social

Most airlines have a Facebook page or Twitter account.  Friend or follow the ones you are most likely to fly and you’ll be rewarded with short notice, short duration fare sales and discounts.  Recently Virgin America announced a 24-hour, $39 promotion via Twitter.  Don’t miss out on these gems!

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  • Rebecca says:

    Excellent little article. A lot of friends come to me to find the best airfare but this sentence “when you find a fare you’re happy with, buy it and don’t look back” is something I totally live by.

    The only downside to one-way tickets sometimes may be when you fly international, some countries need proof of outgoing and when you book RT, they have it. But when you fly on one-ways, you gotta bring a print out of your return! (Happened to me when flying back and forth between Australia and New Zealand…)

  • Andi says:

    Awesome tips!!!

  • Katie says:

    Good tips! I would also add be flexible with your dates if you can. This spring, I was looking to book a flight Chicago-London for June. My dates were fairly flexible. While most flights including the weekends were coming up at $1200 or more, I found a Monday-Friday RT that showed up for $850 on Kayak, flying Aer Lingus. When I went directly to Aer Lingus’s site, I found a slightly different flight for only $825! As you suggest, I had been monitoring flight prices for a couple weeks and figured there was very little chance of getting anything better so I grabbed it.

  • brian says:

    Awesome tips that always need to be repeated. The social media aspect of the travel industry interacting with the public is a good thing and really a way we all can become “insiders”. The best deals go to the best customers, and by signing up via Facebook and/or Twitter, you are identifying yourself as such.

  • Sarah says:

    These are great tips for flight fares!

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