friend of mine decided to miss his cousin's wedding because
the round-trip airfare to Paris was nearly $1,500. I suggested
that he book a flight to Brussels on CityBird for $249, then
take a train for $125 into Paris. Total cost $374.
is called the alternate city strategy and it can
save you a bundle, particularly if your whole family is traveling.
Say you want to fly from Boise, Idaho to Miami, but the best
available fare is $545 a person. For a family of four, thats
nearly $2,200. But if you check some nearby destinations,
you might find that you could fly to Fort Lauderdale or Tampa
for just $300 a person. Youre going to rent a car anyway,
right? Youve just saved $1,000.
key to finding low-cost airfares is flexibility and know-how.
Here's an arsenal of insider tips that can make the skies
insider language when you search for a flight
you book directly through an airline, specifically ask for
the lowest fare. If you don't you'll get a higher fare on
the same flight, same seat. How is this possible? Tickets
are classified by everything from restrictions on cancellation
to numbers of days before flight time. A seat with more restrictions
and a lower price is fine for the average pleasure or business
you ask for the lowest fare, inquire if there are any promotions
that day or coming up soon. Often there is one starting the
next day. The agent may apply the promotional fare for you
early, or hold your seat for 24 hours and officially book
the flight the next day.
you get cut out of a promotion, call again after 10 p.m. that
night or first thing in the morning. Airlines often reinstate
a promotion if it worked. If you miss a midnight deadline,
call the airline in an earlier time zone or book on the Web.
you make the final booking, ask about deals for companion
fares, seniors and students. And if the ultimate fare is higher
than another quote, say so. A fare war may just be beginning
and you'll get the lower rate.
the Web to shop for cheaper flights
fares used to be a full-time job. No more. Frequent travelers
can learn about fare wars online, via e-mail or by fax.
are some places to start:
- Expedia allows you to shop for the lowest airfare available.
It also will send you rates by e-mail for any flights you
regularly take or may be interested in.
also can browse the Web to get information on thousands
- American Airlines publishes NetSAAver. Every Wednesday,
NetSAAver gives details of their best bargain fares. To
sign up, look at the American Airlines home page.
- Continental has the C.O.O.L. program; TWA has its Transworld
Specials; and USAir has Cybersavers.
- Or try a real airfare auction.
Cathay Pacific, the largest carrier to the Orient, offers
a large number of seats to the highest bidder.
to more discount travel Web sites can be found in the left
Look for promotions
promotions are offered all the time by airlines, usually in
concert with a credit card company or a retailer.
instance, American Express routinely offers special discounts
to cardholders with airlines such as Delta and Continental,
where fares are discounted $100 or more. The deals get even
more pronounced if youre taking the family. A recent
deal allowed four people to fly round trip across the United
States for less than $250 per person.
hidden discounts are everywhere. In 1996, its estimated
that nearly $1 billion in discount certificates were offered.
They can show up in junk mail, in special promotional packets
like frequent diner coupons or through tie-ins with hotels
and rental car companies.
you book directly with an airline, plan ahead enough to get
an APEX (Advance Purchase Excursion) fare. Buy your tickets
seven, 14 or 21 days before the flight and stay over a Saturday.
Tickets are nonrefundable, but can be exchanged for a $50
fee. On domestic flights, APEX costs about one-third or less
than the regular fare. British Airlines and Virgin Atlantic
shave an extra $100 off if you book 90 days or 45 days ahead
you can't stay over a Saturday, it could pay to buy two, round-trip
APEX fares, both with Saturday stay-over requirements and
keep or resell the part you don't use.
what I did to travel round trip to Los Angeles without a Saturday
stay: I flew New York to Los Angeles on a flight with a Monday
departure, returning the following Sunday. Cost: $289. I then
purchased a similar ticket that originated from L.A. with
a Friday departure that returned the following Thursday for
the same $289. That way, I flew from New York to L.A. for
$578 a $276 saving over the best New York to Los Angeles
fare quoted to me without a Saturday stay. Be aware: Airlines
dont like this approach and they can assess you for
the full fare if youre caught. The trick? Use two different
Book through consolidators
are companies that buy blocks of tickets from airlines and
resell them at a discount from 30% to 60%. The only catch
is that you may not get frequent-flier miles and changing
may be more restrictive. You can call directly or use a travel
agent. Some airlines, such as Air France's Jet Vacations,
have their own consolidators. (Aside from the low price, the
flight may not require a Saturday stay.)
Travel Network is a huge system of consolidators, discounters
and bucket shops that can help with low-priced overseas trips.
You can also try Discount Airfare Travel Agency.
frequent-flier miles are important to you, choose a consolidator
that gets paid by negotiating commissions with the airlines.
On resale, consolidators retain only a fraction of that commission.
They pass the rest of the commission on as a reduction in
such cases, the actual retail price shows up on your ticket
in the "fare" box. Such tickets often earn frequent-flyer
mileage and can be upgraded with the use of a frequent-flyer
much extra should you pay for a ticket that earns frequent-flyer
mileage? A common rule of thumb is about two cents a mile.
On a round trip from the East Coast to Europe, you'd earn
about $140 worth of credit; from the West Coast to Hong Kong,
twice as much.
are several variations on the consolidator theme. Discount
agencies buy from the consolidator and there is a markup for
their service. They can be useful if youre in a rush
and need the agency to shop for you. Wholesalers buy from
the consolidators and sell to the agencies. There's an extra
be careful of so-called "briefcase shops." They
look for a ticket for you and may require a deposit in advance
to do the looking. To distinguish a "briefcase"
from a consolidator, ask for details of the flight. "Briefcases"
won't be able to give you a flight number.
Look for creative booking strategies
you like puzzles, you can book that $79 round trip special
from New York to Miami, then fly to the Bahamas for another
$90. The round trip from New York is about $600. Especially
for long flights or offbeat destinations, this can work wonders.
off at a stop-over. Often it's cheaper to travel further.
But, if your destination happens to be a stopover city, just
get off the plane. The trick here is you cant have any
baggage checked in. Again, airlines dont like this hidden
Fares, a discount travel publication and Web site overseen
by travel discounter Tom Parsons, " are specialists in
back-to-back flights, stopovers, coupon promotions and overlapping
Consider charter airlines
companies hire airplanes and fill them to the brim. It's not
my favorite way to travel for several reasons.
takeoff times are inconvenient and planes are often delayed.
Second, seats are narrow and the plane is most always full.
Meals and service are often below standard airline fare, which
is no compliment. Even the gate may be tough to get to.
shopping never hurts. Try the consolidators above. Then try
searching by destination or departure city.
Companion fares for two
often offer special companion fares to induce
you and your significant other to choose that carrier. The
fares are often based on a higher priced ticket for the first
traveler, but offer significantly reduced rates for the second
passenger. The sum total is less than if you bought two tickets
at even a discounted rate.
fares typically are offered during off-season periods (such
as the summer when business travel is down or during non-holiday
periods). Ask your travel agent to look for any possible companion
fare deals; they usually wont look without being prompted.
for less is not a difficult task. Just because the person
next to you paid full freight to fly in a crowded coach section
of a cross-continent flight doesnt mean you have to
share in that experience.