Need Cheap Airfare?

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, will have daily flights to Tel Aviv beginning in March 2021.  (photo credit: Courtesy)

Sadly, today booking cheap airfare could be more challenging and complex than purchasing anything else. Airlines are the supreme masters of making puzzling pricing schemes. To clarify the process and assist you find a great deal on your next travel, today I wish to review some of my preferred tactics to book cheap airfare.

It's worth knowing that these tips might not always work for your certain route or planned flying dates. Why? Because each case is unique. Now that you are aware of this, here are my 7 best tactics for getting the cheapest airfare.

7 Best Tactics for Booking Cheap Airfare 

1.  Begin with a reputable flight search engine

While searching for a flight, the initial thing you will wish to do is determine which airlines run a certain route and get an estimated price on the biggest carriers. Opposed to individually visiting all of these airlines' sites, begin by looking for a website which will provide results from many airlines and different combinations of carriers. So, you could start with Expedia or another such as Orbitz, Hotwire, Travelocity, and Cheap Tickets. Do not ignore Google Flights, which, though a very powerful search engine, know that it's not a booking platform and can't buy a flight ticket there.

2.  Check airlines which don't appear on 3rd party websites

One of the major weaknesses of Internet search engines is that they frequently will not display the flights of all airlines such as Southwest, Frontier, and Allegiant. To solve this problem, use a free resource like Wikipedia to learn which of these airlines operates a certain airport. Visit Wikipedia, go to their airport page, and search for a section called "Airlines and destinations." You are advised to locate a list of each airline that flies to that airport as well as all the nonstop destinations that airport operates. So, once you become aware of any carriers which did not show up in your first searches, you could now look for flights straight on the airlines' sites.

3.  Search one-way & round-trip flights

Once upon a time the majority of round-trip flights were cheaper than booking two one-way airfare flights. That's no longer the situation today. For instance, Southwest and Jetblue set their prices for their flights on a one-way basis; and a round-trip flight is only the sum of the 2 one-way rates. So, you'll want to check one-way flight rates to ensure you buy the best round-trip deal by pairing two one-way flight tickets, probably on two different carriers.

Know that purchasing two one-way flights can have a potential risk if you must cancel or modify your trip. For example, if you buy your outbound and return airline flights on various airlines and they each charge $200 modification or cancellation fees, you'll be struck twice if you must adjust your flying plans. But changing both ends of a round-trip flight bought on one airline would just incur that fee once.

4.  Look for one seat at a time

There exists a virtually unknown quirk in how carriers price seats which could result in greater prices if searching for many passengers as opposed to a single ticket. Airlines put their inventory in fare classes, or called buckets, which are not always obviously visible to customers. For instance, there may be just three seats left in a fare bucket for $300 each, and the next higher bucket may be $400 for each ticket. But, if you happen to look for four seats, each one would end up falling into the $400 fare bucket.

So, by searching for only one seat, you'll actually see one of the three existing $300 flight tickets. With some trial and error, you would then know to buy one reservation with 3 flight tickets at $300 each and the other reservation for the 4th ticket priced at $400. In this example, using this easy tactic would save you $300 from what you'd pay via booking all 4 seats on one reservation.

5.  Search alternate airports

At times the cost of a certain flight is extremely high that it could be a good idea to use your second or even third choice of airports. For instance, you perhaps are aware of the New York area's 3 biggest airports: New York-JFK, Newark (EWR), and New York-LaGuardia. But did you know that Stewart (SWF), Westchester (HPN), and Long Island McArthur (ISP) are also in the region? Several airlines permit you to look for all airports in a region by just specifying the destination as the city itself rather than a certain airport. The ITA Matrix tool is also a great way to look for close by if you do not know the area too well, and Google Flights offers a "Nearby airports" option to assist in this search, too.

6.  Leverage elite status

Although having elite status will not allow you to book flights at a discount, you still could use it to save money another way. But with elite status with the majority of airlines let you to standby for earlier flights or perform same-day verified flight modifications. This can permit you to buy a discounted airline flight at an awful time, only to modify it to the flight you really want but at no extra charge. Even without elite status, the charge to standby or make a same-day verified flight modification might be less than the airfare difference between the flight you truly want and the lowest option that day.

7.  Use the correct credit card

The right credit card may very well provide you major savings on flight tickets in a number of various ways. For instance, The Platinum Card from American Express now offers 5x points on all airline bookings made directly with the carrier or with Amex travel, worth 10 cents each dollar spent, based on TPG's recent valuations. That card in addition offers the International Airfare Program, providing cardholders discounts for premium class flights on certain airlines.

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