Written by Laura Milligan
Ironically, traveling by air is getting more and more inconvenient as overbooked flights, lost luggage, and pricey ticket sales become more common. Unfortunately, booking a flight is sometimes just plain necessary, a fact that airlines know all too well, allowing them to continue maximizing profits while we passengers often get stuck on the ground.
The following is a list of useful secrets that will help you find cheaper, better, more convenient ways to fly. Bon voyage!
- Rule 240: Understanding your rights according to Rule 240 is vital. This article from Aviation.com explains the ins and outs of Rule 240, which states “that if an airline [can’t] get you to your destination on time, it [is] required to put you on a competitor’s flight if it would get you there faster than your original airline’s next flight.” Some airlines, including Delta, “no longer make any mention of transporting passengers on other airlines in the event of a flight disruption,” so it’s in every passenger’s best interest to speak up.
- You can get better deals and schedules without buying directly from the airline. Sure, we all know about discount travel sites like Expedia.com and Orbitz, but matching a good deal with an ideal schedule and direct flight is sometimes tricky. Airlines often rely on travelers who can’t afford to waste time during long layovers and would rather shell out extra cash to keep them on schedule. There are alternatives, however. This article, from the Microsoft Small Business Center, suggests contacting a travel agent or even checking your newspaper for special deals. Agents “can have affiliate agreements with a large travel company that negotiates lower rates on their behalf,” and “often, tour operators will advertise ridiculously low fares and package deals in the Sunday travel section.”
- First class seats are available at coach prices. You may need to ask your travel agent to help you out with this tip, but it’s definitely worth it. According to San Diego’s 10News.com, coach tickets can be booked under codes like YUPP, QUPP, or Z, which award ticketholders automatic upgrades to first class. How does it work? According to Rick Seaney, president of FareCompare, “a lot of times the YUPPs are matching some sort of low-cost carrier in a particular market.” According to the article, in 2006, a “round trip flight from Dallas to St. Louis on American Airlines, the YUPP fare is $278 – that’s nearly $1,500 cheaper than a regular seat in first class and more than a $1,000 less than the most expensive seat in coach.”
- Find out which days equal the cheapest tickets. According to Wendy Perrin’s The Perrin Post by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, “You’ll find cheaper fares and greater seat availability if you fly on a Saturday and return on a Tuesday, instead of going from Thursday to Sunday or Friday to Monday.”
- Take advantage of lesser-known airlines. The European and Asian travel markets are noticing a boom in the number of smaller, cheaper airlines. Ryanair and Easyjet are popular airlines that are just as safe and probably more efficient than their larger competitors. Book flights on Jetstar or Malaysia Airlines for Asian travel. You won’t be able to fly direct from the U.S. on some of these airlines, but once you’re abroad, they’re definitely the way to travel.
- Fly foreign. Air France hosts its on U.S. site, which features extremely reasonable prices for tickets from various cities in the United States. You’ll probably find cheaper fares by checking with your destination’s airlines rather than American ones. Just be sure you calculate the exchange rate, however, to avoid paying more than you had intended.
- Re-work your travel schedule. If you plan on flying to several different cities, either within the U.S. or abroad, arrange your travel schedule so that you’re always flying into the cheapest cities. Wendy Perrin suggests looking “into flying via Dublin instead of London” if you’re going to Europe. “Aer Lingus has cheap flights, and low-fare carriers fly from Dublin to many European cities.
- Make sure you understand refund policies. Airlines can be reluctant when it comes to passing out ticket refunds, so make sure you’re familiar with their policy before getting duped. The article “Airlines’ policies on refunds and changes” from the New York Times connects you to the refund policies of all major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest, and United. The article is dated 2001, but the links should take you to the most updated information.
- Buy consolidated. To find cheap fares even at the last minute, buy your tickets from a consolidator. wikiHow publishes a thorough step-by-step guide with tips on buying from a consolidator, including planning on departing from larger cities and finding great international ticket deals.
- Schedule your departure from a larger city to avoid higher prices. If you leave near a city like Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, or Los Angeles, consider driving to those hub airports instead of departing from the regional airports in your hometown. You can save hundreds of dollars and will avoid the hassle of having to connect (or miss) your next flight. Read the list of U.S. hub airports here.
Now that you’ve got the inside information on these top airline secrets, you’ve got a better chance of saving lots of cash, flying in more comfortable seats, and avoiding some of the inconveniences of traveling with major airlines. We hope you enjoy your trip!