How to Score a Fair Last Minute Airfare

departure sign; last minute travel tipsLife happens and among our planned vacations and leisure travels there are some last minute emergency trips that catch us completely unprepared and leave us doomed to spend our savings on the tomorrow’s airfare. If you are faced with similar scenario and you are not one of those lucky rich procrastinators, who wouldn’t mind spending a small fortune on a last minute ticket, you might want to read this article, because there are ways to save money.  

Search intermediary websites: Back in the days, it was a common practice for travelers to head straight to the airport and to expect the best last-minute fair at the carrier’s desk. The Internet has revolutionized sales channels, especially when it comes to air travel, and today intermediary websites such as offer better deals than the carriers themselves. This holds true almost every time, for both domestic and international travels. And because it might sound paradoxical, I would back this statement with an excerpt from a recent study on flight prices on the Internet. It revealed that the average price on a ticket from Madrid to New York was cheaper on intermediary websites, than purchased from conventional agencies or even on the carrier’s website.

That being said, if you find the ticket you need and the price is right, book it immediately or it might be gone before you know it. For your own sake, especially if travelling the next day, make sure you call and talk to a live agent who will confirm your purchase.

Take advantage of price discrimination: When it comes to prices it is no longer a secret that airlines discriminate. In other words they provide the same product to different people at different prices and different times. While some levels of price discrimination are socially acceptable, such as student, military or senior discount, others might be a complete insult for the consumer. You can’t change this fact, so instead of dwelling on it, you might as well take advantage of it. Recent studies revealed that the day of the week when you purchase your ticket does matter, yet different researchers interpret this factor differently, so your best bet will be to experiment for yourself, if time allows. One study showed that in the final two weeks before departure online purchases are on average of 4% cheaper on the weekend than during the week. On the other hand, some travel gurus insist that the best day to purchase a ticket would be Tuesday afternoon, because airlines apply discounts on Monday and by Tuesday all competitors have already followed. Experiment, experiment, experiment, if the current situation permits.

Be flexible: Unless it is an emergency, try to be as flexible as possible on several different levels. For starter, try to choose flexible dates. Some travel advisers claim that flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are cheaper than the rest of the week because these are the least popular days to travel.

If choosing your flight date is not the case, at least try to include Saturday in your round trip travel. This will guarantee you lower price, compared to a one or two-day travel.

Next, be flexible about the times of travel, even if that means you need to board at some ungodly hour of the night. Many passengers, true to their comfort, try to avoid those late and less popular flights.

On the same token, try to book a flight with one or more stops, if your schedule allows. I just ran a simple search on our website for a round trip flight from Chicago to Miami, and just as I expected, there was a $500 difference between a non-stop flight and the one with layover.

Opt for nearby airports. Unless you are on a company paid business trip or somebody will be expecting you at a particular airport, do a search with nearby airports. You might end up finding much cheaper tickets that will not only cover your rent-a-car, or bus ticket, or whatever other means of transportation you choose, but will also save you some extra money.

Use your miles: Have you signed up for one of those loyalty programs that apply miles to your account every time you travel? If so, now is the time to put those miles to good use. Different carriers have specific names – air miles, sky miles, award miles, etc. No matter what you call them, miles are literally free travel money, so one should never underestimate their savings power. Call the airline company, check with them how many miles you will need for this particular trip. If you don’t have enough, you can transfer miles from family members’ accounts, purchase some from the company’s website or some carriers would even allow you to apply your miles and pay the difference with real money.

Check the fair specials: Some of the big carriers such as Delta, United and US Airways post their specials online. Keep in mind that these specials apply to particular round trip destinations and set dates of travel, as well as trip duration. With a little more luck, you might be able to fit in one of their special-fare frames and score a cheaper last-minute deal.

Check the combos: As absurd as it may sound, when it comes to last minute deals a flight+rent-a-car or flight+hotel might cost you less than the flight itself. If that’s the case, take the combo and throw the service you don’t need.

Ask for bereavement discount: Bereavement fares are travel options for customers who are faced with last-minute emergency travel. Such fares are usually refundable and permit changes with no extra fees. The bereavement fare gives you a discount between 10 and 75 percent off the regular last minute price, but you need to contact the carrier directly over the phone. That being said, because you will be paying a portion of the full fare, often times you will pay more than the cost for a sale ticket or a low-fare carrier ticket. What is more, you will be facing the option for your request to be turned down and that will put additional stress on you. Also, keep in mind that if you decide to take advantage of such discount you will need to provide proof of death or illness, as well as kinship.

Check low-cost airlines: When booking in advance, you have the right to be picky and brand loyal. Yet, when it comes to last minute travel and saving money, you need to perform a thorough research and remain open-minded for low-cost companies that might provide you with better fare.

Upgrade to higher class: If none of the above tips work for you, at least do one last search for tickets in first class. You might end up finding the same price, if not better, than the one you were about to pay for a coach seat. Even if you have no other option, but to purchase that exuberant full-fare last-minute ticket, at the end of the day you will travel in comfort.

Purchase smart and travel safe.


Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Travel How To's and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.