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How to Shop Air Travel

By Bob Kocher

December 18, 2019

 

We live in a fast-paced culture, so we tend to be more spontaneous.  This is not necessarily a good idea when it comes to booking air travel.  Knowing how to shop is important.  Here are some tips before you look at sites.

 

  • Put one person in charge of investigating fares.  When more than one person is putting travel dates in air search engines, you are inviting a master computer to know you are looking.  Multiple entries for the same itinerary and dates can cause rates to rise, sometimes significantly.  
  • Shop in the evening on Monday through Thursday.  After midnight systems reboot so rates often come down the next day.  
  • Although non-stops are generally preferred, look at layovers.  Airline sites will not offer a connection that they consider cannot be made because they can be liable to pay expenses such as meals and hotels.  Sites like Expedia and Priceline are not beholden to the same rules.
  • Shop Southwest before other airlines.  Two bags are free, tickets can be changed and, in many cases, refundable.  If you know you are going to use SW, be sure to buy as soon as schedules are released.  The lowest fare is called "Wanna Get Away" and seats are limited.  
  • Before you buy, look at the equipment you are flying on.  Use the site Seat Guru to see every seat evaluated on every airline and every type of aircraft that they fly.  For example, Google American (any airline), 747-300 (any plane type) seat guru.  You will get a diagram with seat dimensions, and comments from travelers which are translated to actual seat ranging from good to fair and poor.
  • Except for United, don't be afraid to buy the lowest fare offered.  United's low fare restrictions are strict and unforgiving.  Beth and I have been able to get good seat assignments, upgrade, and pay for a bag at the normal rate.  On the Hawaii trip this year we upgraded to Business Class when there were lots of seats available and had the pleasant surprise on Delta of getting seats that lay down.    
  • Look at one-way fares and when shopping check the itinerary in reverse.  If you need to go to New York, sometimes one-way in one direction is more costly than round-trip in the opposite direction.  I have used Southwest going and a R/T ticket coming back.  I fly then cancel the return and have the value to apply to a ticket within a year of purchase, saving and making money at the same time.

 

If you have tips to add to any blog, please send them.  They will be added to the blog and archives on the TravelSober site.  Remember, we are here to help.  When it comes to cruises, check with us before buying.  Our rates rarely can be beat, and we watchdog value added extras and favorable price changes daily.  

 

Travel safe and TravelSober