Finding the Best Airfare

by Gregory Thomas

Copyright 1998-99

It the wild and wacky world of "airfare wars", the rate you pay for an airline ticket all depends on where, when and how you buy your tickets.

The farther in advance you plan your flight and the more flexible you can be with your schedule, will result in a lower airfare rate.

Here are some general guidelines you should follow when booking any type of airline reservation:

  • Book your flight at least 14 days in advance. Why? Airlines like to know how crowded each plane is going to be, so booking early will probably get you a lower rate.
  • Avoid traveling on Friday evenings and Monday mornings. These are the two busiest days (aside from holidays) for airlines.
  • Stay away from holiday travel if at all possible. Plan your trip a little before (or after) to avoid the crowds and airfare increases.
  • Best time to travel: November 1st- December 15th.

Here is a list of sources you should check out before ever calling a travel agent or airline. They are organized in the order you should explore prior to giving your credit card number for a ticket reservation.

Courier Companies

Going through a courier company is by far the cheapest way to fly, period. How much cheaper? Sometimes more than half off the lowest coach fare. So what's the catch?

Courier companies offer extremely low priced airfares to individuals willing to "sacrifice" their luggage allowance for a particular flight. In other words, you will be carrying their "luggage" in the place of yours.

These are legal temporary arrangements that are done thousands of times everyday and can be an excellent money saving opportunity (if you can part with your luggage space).

Remember, legitimate courier companies can only operate with a license, and 99% of the time you never even see/touch the "luggage" you are transporting. You simply meet a representative a few hours before the flight and hand papers to a representative once you arrive at your destination.


Consolidators buy tickets in bulk and then pass the savings on to you by selling the tickets at a discounted rate. Expect an average discount of 20% off regular airfare ticket prices.

One disadvantage that you'll find, is that flights booked through consolidators aren't as frequent as you might like. If your schedule is time/day specific, you might not be able to find an accommodating flight.

You can find information about quite a number of consolidating companies in the travel section of any major metropolitan newspaper (particularly within the Sunday edition). Look for the ads offering "super low rate airfares".

Online Discounts

Use resources on the Internet to help save you money off your next airline ticket. Get prices quotes from term specific searches and even direct access to online reservation systems.

Beware, the price quotes that you find at a web site are JUST the price quotes in that particular database. Another site or airline might be offering a lower rate that is NOT listed in their database, and in turn, will not show up on a search query.

Here are some resources to help you start your online search for low priced airfares:
Airline Auction
Budget Travel Online

Email Services

Most major airlines now offer special email notifications to inform subscribers about special discounts and last minute "deals". Simply go to the home page of any major airline and look for the appropriate subscribe option.

You will then receive email notifications of special airfare rates. For example, on a Sunday night, you might receive the following: 'Flight number XXX from Seattle to Miami leaving Tuesday departure time 2am - half price $189 round trip'.

You'll find many great airfare prices, but you'll also find that most flights depart in a matter of days, giving you very little time to prepare. However, if you fly regularly and foresee flights in the near future, check your email for possible savings!

Travel Agents

After you have explored all your options, contact a few travel agents to see what they can offer. You might come across a deal or two.

Travel agents will be able to check the airfares amongst ALL the airlines they deal with and possibly suggest less expensive flights that fit your scheduled plan. It pays to check with a few travel agents before buying, in order to get the lowest priced ticket possible.


Usually if you want to purchase a product/service for the lowest price possible, you would buy directly from the source. Not in the case for airline tickets.

Since airlines know that people are going to fly "the friendly skies", and most will not take the time to research their opportunities, airlines can charge whatever they want (especially during the holidays).

The only time you should call an airline is to check and see how much money you saved by exploring your other options. Your pocketbook will thank you for taking the time to investigate lower ticket rates.

Gregory Thomas edits "Money Saving Tips" Your source for FREE articles, tips and advice designed to help you save money. You can also take advantage of our free bi-weekly "Money Saving Tips" newsletter for added money saving opportunities.

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