How to Score Cheap Airline Flights

Finding good, cheap airline flights requires patience, and a general knowledge of the factors involved. Here are some pointers.

When it comes to online travel sites, everyone and their brother will tell you they can get you the best cheap airline flights to just about anywhere in the world. Obviously, they can’t all be right; and while they can usually get you a decent deal, they might not get you the best one.

So before you go web surfing, give the situation a little thought. You might find that you can wrangle a cheaper flight on your own. Considering the huge hassle that flying has become, it’s worth the extra effort.

General Guidelines

You’ll save a significant amount of money on nearly all airfares if you buy a month or so in advance, and plan your trips for the off-season. Like all travel merchants, airlines love to charge everything the market will bear during peak travel months.

Next, check to see what your credit cards can do for you. If you’ve taken advantage of a customer loyalty program, you may be able to trade in some of those points for frequent flier miles…and a considerable price reduction.

Further Considerations

Otherwise, research suggests that the cheapest day of the week for airline flights is Wednesday, at least when it comes to domestic travel. Other good days are Tuesday and Saturday. The reasons are complex, but ultimately boil down to the airlines offering discounts to fill empty seats on low-volume days.

The best time to actually purchase tickets for domestic flights is about 3 PM EST on Tuesdays. Most airlines pull their discount offers by Thursday, which is why Saturday flights, though typically lighter in terms of the number of seats filled, aren’t the cheapest.

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

Flying has declined in popularity in recent years, and no wonder: poor management has killed many an airline, and the tightened security since 9/11 has turned people off on the whole process. Sadly, this has had a negative feedback effect as airlines have tried to cut costs as a result.

While no one expects wonderful food from an airline (imagine serving 200 meals in an unstable, pressurized tin can), at least you used to get free food and drinks. This is rarer now, so eat well before you leave for the airport — and for heaven’s sake, don’t buy food in the concourse unless you like getting overcharged.

Excess Baggage

As for luggage, two words: pack light. Airlines now charge substantial fees for heavy baggage, and a few are even charging for carry-ons these days. But not everyone does, so don’t hesitate to check this on a particular airline’s website, or call and ask if they do.

As you can see, scoring cheap airline flights involves more than just saving on the fare.