Chris Lopinto, President and Co-Founder of ExpertFlyer.com
Spring may be in the air but our thoughts are already focused on this year’s summer vacation. Where are we going to go? How will we get there? And, how much will it cost? If your destination requires a plane ticket, here are a few tips for finding the best deals to ensure you are getting the most value from your airline this summer.
So you naturally assume that the cost of the ticket you purchased with American would be the same price if booked through Qantas, right? Not necessarily. While you may be a loyal AA flyer, you might actually get a better fare by booking the same flight through Qantas (in this example). And sometimes the difference in fares between airlines can be substantial, especially when flying internationally.
If you see that a flight is being operated by a partner of your preferred airline (This information will be listed in smaller type beneath the carrier you’re booking through.), do a quick cross-check on their website to be sure you are getting the best possible price. If the airlines are partners in a major airline alliance your ability to accrue points/miles will not be affected.
Jonathan Breeze, founder of Aardvark Compare, a travel insurance company that aggregates more than 30 insurance plans to suit specific travel needs, has a couple of options to consider when booking that expensive, flexible ticket.
“As astounding as it may sound, on average, a Refundable Seat can cost 300% of the price of a Non-Refundable Seat that is bundled with inexpensive travel insurance.
As an example, if you buy a refundable roundtrip Economy Ticket from Dallas (DFW) to L.A. (LAX) in August for a week (4 months from now), you can expect to pay approximately $2,000 for a Main Cabin Fully Flexible Seat. It’s in the Main Cabin, but yet more expensive than a First Class seat.
So, you bypass this option to seek a more traditional Main Cabin (Economy) seat. For this, you can expect to pay about $1,160 for a Main Cabin Flexible Seat. While this seat is flexible, it isn’t ‘fully’ flexible. In this case, travelers may change their flights, not lose all of their money, but they will need to pay a $200 change fee (on average).
A better solution might be the following:
For the same scenario as above, you can pay $315 for a Non-Refundable Main Cabin Seat. Add Cancellation Insurance for about $50 and you’re virtually bulletproof! Cancellations for reasons of sickness, death, incapacitation, etc. yield a 100% Refund; Cancellation for work-related reasons also yields a 100% refund; and Cancellation for any other reason provides a 75% refund.
So, for $365 ($315 ticket plus $50 insurance) a customer booking that DFW – LAX flight has nearly the same level of coverage as the person paying $1,160 for the exact same seat — but for approximately $800 less.
The person in the $1,150 seat still has to pay $200 every time they make a change whereas the person in the $450 seat just needs to throw the ticket away and use their insurance if a flight needs to be canceled.
Review travel insurance policies at aggregator sites such as Aardvark Compare to see how you can combine insurance with a non-refundable ticket to save a lot of money and protect yourself if you need to cancel your trip.
Modifying your search is one way to ensure you are getting the lowest fare available on your flight. Let’s say you are taking the family to Chicago this summer and you need four (4) airline tickets. Once you determine the airline and date /time of departure, you can search for all the tickets you need (4). Once you find the lowest fare available, write down the cost per ticket and start a new search.
Searching the same airline, date, time and flight, now search for only one (1) ticket. If the fare is lower than your original search, you have struck gold. Now, conduct the same exact search but this time look for two (2) tickets, and so on, up to the four tickets you actually need and compare the prices based on each search.
Here is the secret. If, for example, you are looking for four tickets but there are only two (2) tickets left in a lower fare bucket, the airline reservation system will not show you the lower fare because there aren’t enough tickets in that bucket to satisfy your initial search for four tickets. It will automatically provide pricing for fare buckets that have enough tickets for the quantity you are requesting.
If the price for one ticket is less than your original search for four, then you know that there is at least one ticket available at the lower fare…but not four. Conducting this for two and three tickets you will learn how many tickets are available at the lower fare.
You can then purchase the maximum number of available tickets at the lower fare and book the balance of tickets needed at the higher fare. Amortizing the total cost over four tickets can save you a lot of money.
If you find that the ticket price does not change when searching for one ticket, at least you know the price you are paying for four is the lowest possible for that particular flight.
When searching for airline tickets, your first search should be for the total number of tickets you need. Then, conduct the same search for a lesser number of tickets, starting with one, to see if there is a change in the fare. If yes, then you know there are less expensive tickets available, just not in the total quantity you need.
Using Seat Alerts, a free app from ExpertFlyer.com, you don’t need to be stuck in the middle anymore. Setting an alert in the app is easy. Simply input your airline, flight number and date of travel and specify what seat you want such as any aisle, any window, two seats together, or even any seat on a fully booked flight. This is particularly useful for families who wish to find seating together or close by. Seat Alerts will automatically search for your desired seat and notify you via email when it finds it. Then, simply go to your airline itinerary and change your seat. Your new seat will be waiting for you.
Download the Seat Alerts app on any iPhone or Android device, input your flight information and desired seat, and wait for automatic notification.
ExpertFlyer offers a feature called Flight Alerts which automatically monitors availability of award tickets and upgrades and offers access to information not found anywhere else on the Internet including:
This saves hours of time and aggravation associated with conducting ongoing searches for award tickets you need.
Flight Alerts is like having your own personal travel agent who is searching on your behalf 24/7. A subscription to ExpertFlyer ($99/year) can save you hours of frustrated searches, and save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in savings.
Tip: David Bakke from MoneyCrashers.com says before you start shopping for travel deals you need to outsmart the search engines. “Make sure private browsing is enabled on your computer before shopping for travel deals – or at the very least clear your cookies. Due to airlines’ use of dynamic pricing, websites may show higher prices if you’ve clicked on them before.”
“It’s not widely known that the price of a particular flight may differ when booked from varying locations. One of the ways around this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that will allow you to check and compare the fares of the same flight by connecting to multiple countries and then book from the location with the cheapest price. This can save you a lot of money,” says Haris Mumtaz of PureVPN.