Finding the Best Airfare
Long gone are the days when the majority of airlines offered enticing discounts to seniors. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the digital age. Years ago, it was common for planes to fly with fewer passengers and therefore airlines could offer discounted rates for seats that would otherwise fly empty. Since online booking has greatly increased the number of bookings per flight, airlines are able to sell more tickets at full price.
Do any airlines still provide discounts to seniors on their airfares? There are two answers to that question: the short answer and the practical answer. The short answer is yes, but only one airline: Southwest Airlines. Even though its website makes finding a senior fare incredibly easy by providing a separate dropdown menu for seniors (65+), the “Senior” rate offered is often higher than their baseline “Wanna get away” rate. The one advantage to buying your ticket with a senior discount is that it is fully refundable whereas the “Wanna get away” rate is not. So really the practical answer is no since senior discounts for airfare have moved closer toward possible extinction.
However, this doesn’t mean an end to cheap seats. The advantage of online ticketing is that prices have become very competitive. Start with some of the travel sites that enable you to search many airlines at the same time. Here are a few good places to start your search www.cheapflights.com , www.cheapoair.com , www.expedia.com , www.kayak.com, www.orbitz.com , www.priceline.com , www.skyscanner.com , www.sidestep.com , www.travelocity.com , or www.yapta.com . Enter your travel dates and destination and search the results for the best prices.
Before you make your next booking, here are a few tips:
The best price isn’t always the best option. Be sure to check flight, layover, and arrival times before purchasing. Often, the cheapest flights have very early departure times, long layovers, or very late arrival times.
Know when to make your ticket purchase. The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Kayak.com offers fare history graphs for domestic and international flights, allowing you to see whether your fare is headed in an upward or downward direction. Keep in mind that many airlines launch fare sales on Tuesdays—so if you decide to buy on a Monday, you may not be too happy when your destination goes on sale the next day.
Be flexible with your departure. If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. The site will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Also, experiment with different travel dates. Keep in mind that just about every destination has a peak season and if you can fly any other time of year, you’ll often pay significantly less. Shifting your itinerary by a month, a week, or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. The day of the week you fly on can also make a big difference in your air fare. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally the least expensive days for domestic flights and Friday and Sunday are the most expensive. (Monday, Thursday, and Saturday are in the middle). The difference between a Tuesday flight and a Sunday flight is $29 each way on average, or $58 round trip. If you’re traveling for the weekend, consider Saturday to Monday or Tuesday instead of a Thursday or Friday to Sunday trip. And if you’re traveling for a full week, Tuesday to Tuesday or Wednesday to Wednesday is often your best bet.
Use your frequent flier miles. Why pay a fare at all when you can use your frequent flier miles? Although redeeming miles has gotten more difficult in recent years, it’s still a good option to consider, particularly if you’re booking early; airlines designate a very limited number of seats on each flight as eligible for award travel, and these seats go quickly.
Get a refund when fares go down. If fares go down after you’ve purchased your ticket, ask for a refund. You may not always get one, but policies vary by airline—and many do not publicize the fact that they will refund you the difference if prices go down. It can’t hurt to ask.
Yapta.com will track flights for you after your purchase and notify you if the fares go down. Orbitz.com has a Price Assurance guarantee, which entitles you to a refund if another Orbitz user books the same itinerary for less and the best thing is that it’s automated so you don’t have to follow prices after booking.
Finally, remember to keep an eye on baggage fees. Rules vary from airline to airline so make sure that your checked bags are covered in the ticket price. Additional baggage fees can be quite expensive. If you need to pay an additional bag fee, make your purchase through the airline’s website before arriving at the airport because paying baggage fees at the counter while checking in for your flight is often much more expensive.
Using these savvy tips will help you find some great travel deals. Spending some extra time online while planning your trip can end up saving you a lot of money. Have fun on your trip!