Air travel can be quite expensive, and if you don’t know the secrets of smart booking, you may be tempted to cancel your trip altogether. Sad!
There are some strategies for booking airline tickets that most people know: start your search early, set up notifications for airline tickets, and try to fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. These are all good tips, but we’ll reveal some more unusual ways to get cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
Add a stop on purpose
Yes, it is much easier to fly directly to your destination. But depending on your itinerary, this may not always be feasible. Many tickets indicate where to transfer, but this is also up to you.
To do this, design your itinerary in parts, from your destination back home. For example, if you want to visit Scotland, first look for the cheapest flight to Scotland from several major airports. When you find one you like, find the cheapest airline ticket that will take you from your home to that hub.
If you use this strategy, leave at least a few hours between flights to reduce the risk of missing your connection. This is especially important if you want to change airlines.
If you change airlines, you are unlikely to be compensated for missed flights. However, if you stay with one airline, you can sometimes rebook a connecting flight for free, even if you combine your ticket.
Search single seats
The algorithm that decides airline ticket prices is extremely complex. It takes into account not only the demand for that flight at any given time, but also the price of oil, labor costs, competitors’ prices and the market’s price tolerance. That’s why prices go up and down all the time. But the universal truth is that no one likes to be in the middle.
All these factors combined cause airlines to set different prices for different seats on the same plane. And if you book several tickets together, the airline will charge the highest price in the block for each seat in the group. You can get around this by buying each seat separately.
The individual seat strategy means you may have to sit separately from the rest of your group. This is fine for adults, but difficult if you are traveling with children. However, if you have children, it’s worth checking to see if the airline offers cheaper tickets for children.
Get a job with the airline
It’s not just pilots and flight attendants who fly for free or at heavily discounted fares. Airlines need all kinds of employees, including customer service agents, baggage handlers, financial analysts, interns, maintenance workers and recruiters. It’s easy for airlines to offer their employees discounts on air travel, so they do.
They also don’t have to travel themselves. Your employee benefits also apply to your spouse, children and parents. Many airlines even offer what’s called a “buddy pass,” where your guests only have to pay the ticket fees, not the full price.
You usually have to fly standby, so there’s no guarantee that you can fly when you want. This pretty much rules out national holidays as a good time to travel. It can also be difficult to find available seats during the vacations, but it depends on where you’re traveling.
Score airline miles
With a little forward planning and the ability to understand the fine print on credit card offers, you can accumulate a significant number of air miles in a short period of time. Typically, this means that you receive miles in exchange for purchases made with your credit card.
For this to work, you need to be able to spend a lot of money on a regular basis (for example, on a mortgage) and then pay off the card quickly so you don’t incur fees. You can also try to earn a lot of miles if you’re going to make a big purchase anyway, such as furnishing a new home.
We usually do not recommend airline miles for travel, as they are notoriously difficult to use. Expiration dates, blackout dates and other restrictions will make you backed into a corner. And worst of all, airlines can devalue these miles at any time without notice.
If you want to use your miles for a cheap flight, it’s best to play the card game with a specific trip in mind in the near future. Before you spend money, make sure the miles are actually earmarked for that trip. Then cross your fingers and hope the airline doesn’t change the rules before you board.
With a little (okay, a lot) of creativity, you can find cheap airline tickets. If you can sort out the insanely complicated airfares, you’ll have more money left over for souvenirs when you travel.
Of course, if you can’t beat them, you should join them. You might want to polish up your resume or make friends with someone who already works for an airline. However you do it, we wish you a safe trip!