Saving money on airline tickets isn’t just a seasonal concern. Here are tips on lowering the cost from an airborne expert.
By George Hobica
November 29, 2010Yes, fares on many routes are much more expensive this holiday season than last, but airfares are not static and there are (relative) deals to be had any time of year. Here is Airfarewatchdog.com’s (www.airfarewatchdog.com) best advice for making your airfare dollars go farther no matter what the time of year.
1. Sign up for the airlines’ email feeds and frequent flyer programs
Yes, we know, you already get too much email, but the airlines want to develop a one-on-one relationship with you, so they’ll send you special deals, such as 50% off promo codes or two-fers, if you sign up. Airline sites sell much more than airfares these days (hotels, rental cars, credit cards, and such), and they will entice you to deal direct rather than use a third party site such as Orbitz. Here are links to U.S. domestic airline sign up pages and for international sign ups. If you’re on Twitter, you might also want to follow the airlines’ tweets, which they’re using to promote exclusive Twitter-only deals (read Sascha Segan’s piece “Beyond the Buzz: How to Use Twitter for Travel Help”). We signed up for Virgin America’s frequent flyer program and because we haven’t flown them yet we keep on getting promo code discount offers to give them a try.
2. Sign up for third-party fare alerts
Many airfare web sites offer alerts, and they all have something to offer. Yapta.com (www.yapta.com) lets you track your specific itinerary, down to the flight number and dates of travel, and will let you know if the airline owes you a price-drop refund. Travelocity’s easy-to-use FareWatcherPlus lets you track up to ten routes and you can choose to be notified either when a fare goes down by $25 or more, or when it goes below a price you choose. Orbitz also offers alerts, as does Bing Travel (www.bing.com/travel), TripAdivsor (www.tripadvisor.com/Flights), and FareCompare (www.farecompare.com). To see how all these services differ, consult Airfarewatchdog.com’s comparison chart.
One thing to note: these sites use essentially the same airfare data provided by the airlines’ computer systems or ITA Software (which has been in the news lately as a possible Google acquisition), so they won’t include discounted promo code fares, and most don’t include Southwest Airlines (Airfarewatchdog.com does, however, include hand-picked fares on Southwest and Allegiant Airlines).