How to reduce the cost of traveling by air

Finding Cheap Airfares

by Lee Doppelt


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According to AA.com, the website of American Airlines, approximately 275,000 people fly on their airline each day. That's 34,000 daily flights on American alone. Add that figure to the numerous other domestic and international carriers, and you know that despite the economy, there are many people of all ages traveling for personal reasons or for business. Perhaps you will fly this year for family reunions, special occasions, or maybe an ocean-side well-deserved vacation on the beach. In the past few years, the increasing costs of airport security and rising fuel costs have made air travel ridiculously expensive. But there are some legitimate and sensible ways to make air travel more reasonable for you and your family.

Being flexible is your ticket to more affordable airfares.

If you can change your departure and returning airport and dates, you have a much greater chance of saving money on air travel. Traveling on a Saturday or a national holiday may be cheaper, for example, than flying on a Friday, Sunday, or Monday. If you live in a large city, such as Chicago, you might compare flights in and out of Midway Airport versus O'Hare. Similarly, New York travelers can compare LaGuardia, Kennedy, and Newark Airports.

People living in less populated areas need not despair when shopping for air tickets. If you do not live in a large city with many airlines, be sure to compare the options of traveling to a larger airport versus flying from your local small-town airport. You may need to drive or use public transportation such as bus or train to get to an airport that has the best deals, but often it is worth it.

Here's an example. A woman living in Bloomington, Illinois wanted to be in Los Angeles for Wednesday, the fourth of July. She could make this trip by flying on Delta round trip, changing planes once in each direction, for $645.20. That sounded expensive to her since typically that had been her cheapest option. She checked on Orbitz.com with flexible cities and flexible dates and discovered that she could fly round trip on American Airlines departing out of Springfield Illinois, approximately 64 miles away from Bloomington, and returning to Champaign, approximately 50 miles from Bloomington, for only $405. That was a huge savings and worth doing, and she would have been willing to make these short drives except that her departure and returning airports were in two different cities. What to do? Searching online, she discovered that she could purchase a bus ticket in advance and ride a bus from Bloomington to Springfield for only $21.59, and upon returning to Illinois, she could take a bus from Champaign to Bloomington for $28.35. Traveling this way, she would end up paying about $455, still nearly a $200 savings from the flights out of Bloomington. She happily booked that trip without regret.

Purchasing air tickets online and on certain days of the week usually offers the best deals.

Sign up to receive weekly emails from specific airlines, such as AA.com and Delta.com and from websites such as Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Expedia.com and TravelZoo.com. These companies buy bulk air tickets and sell a limited number of seats of specific flights so you may need to buy quickly. Air ticket sales typically are publicized each Tuesday; Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the best days to purchase airline tickets.

There may be other ways you can save money when purchasing air tickets.

Some airlines give discounts to seniors over 65 years old. Watch for these opportunities if you are of a certain age. When they look at your identification at the airport, they will scrutinize your age, so always be honest.

Airline credit cards may grant you monetary discounts or frequent flyer miles. Always read the fine print before you obtain an airline credit card. There may be value in it for you, but possibly not, depending on your travel habits.

Frequent flyer programs are also worth using. There is no risk in signing up for them, but using a specific carrier just to receive the miles may turn out to be penny-wise and pound-foolish for your specific situation.

It is almost always cheaper to book a trip online rather than by phone, but you should make sure the site is secure. Most sites are secure, but one woman recently had her credit card compromised after using an airline website. The credit card took responsibility for everything for her, but it was still a nuisance and wasted way too much of her time.

Good deals come and go. A departure city that you have usually used because of its traditionally cheapest fares may not be cost effective for the upcoming trip you have planned, so always shop around and compare before clicking "book now." Make no assumptions and shop for each trip independent of a previous or future trip. The world of air travel is ever-changing.

Take the Next Step:

  • For all of your traveling needs, check out Expedia.com
  • For more on air travel, please visit here.

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