The wide-ranging prices of available airline tickets can be perplexing to many airline travelers. Only a handful of people who control the complex formulas that go into the art and science of revenue management inside the caverns of today's airlines understand it. To both the seasoned and occasional traveler, getting the best value in an airfare is the elusive dream that is difficult to consistently achieve.
There are, however, some time-proven practices that travelers can implement to help reduce the cost of air travel:
Change the Time You Travel
Don't be rigid on the time of day you want to travel. Going between New York and Los Angeles, for example, may have one airline offering as many as seven or eight flights on a particular day. If you want to leave in the morning, investigate the three or four departures offered during that time-period. Moving your departure time by just one hour, on your departure or return, may save you a significant portion of the ticket price.
Change the Day You Travel
Even if you require traveling on a particular airline or time of day, look at moving your desired departure or return day by one or two days. It is often the case that a particular flight may be cheaper on a Tuesday than a Wednesday, or a Saturday instead of a Sunday. The side benefit of this might be a free one-day "vacation" as the savings in airfare can more than offset the additional cost of a hotel room and meals.
Change the Route You Travel
Yes, we all like to travel directly from where we are to our destination as quickly as possible and without changing planes. But how much is this worth to you? Airlines often make connecting flights from your origin to destination less expensive than their non-stop flights. It may add a couple of hours to travel time but it may be worth the hundreds of dollars you might be saving. Airline websites, unfortunately, are designed to show you the most direct and shortest time between the cities you request. If they have an option to "search by fare" use that option with maximum number of results possible and drill down deep in the results to make sure you see all the fares available.
Change the Airline You Use to Travel
Competition is a wonderful thing! Many routes are highly competitive and it can force an airline with traditional dominance in a market to drop its airfares, sometimes dramatically, in response to a new competitor or fare sale from other competing airlines. Often times these "sales" will happen on a moment's notice and may only last for a few days. If you have a favorite airline you wish to use, subscribe to their email alerts for your favorite cities so you can be kept up to date on any fare changes. But don't limit yourself to just one airline; do it for all the airlines in your market.
First Class Cheaper Than Coach?
No discussion of airfares would be complete without talking about the new currency for airfares: the frequent flyer mile. More and more of us are accumulating these frequent flyer miles that pay for airline tickets. Our first inclination when trying to redeem these miles is to seek out a coach seat using the lowest amount of miles, typically around 25,000 miles. However, it is usually the case that the airline does not have any seats at the lowest mileage redemption level when you would like to travel but may have them if you use twice the miles. Before giving in to this requirement, ask about business or first class awards. You may be surprised how many times discounted business or first class awards may be available to and from your destination for the same or less or slightly more miles than for double mileage coach awards. The extra comfort and perks are the icing on the cake!
Be flexible, keep current on airfares, explore all your routing options and look at all the ways frequent flyer miles can be redeemed.
Chris is the President and Co-Founder of ExpertFlyer.com, a service that helps travelers get out of the "Middle Seat" by providing in-depth flight info and alerts when Awards and Upgrades are available.