Being a frequent air traveler (domestic and international), I have come across quite a few tips and tricks for booking cheap flight tickets over the time. Some of them being useful while others not so much. I have compiled a list of ticketing hacks that have worked great in the past. The next time you travel, keep these flight booking hacks in mind. You will be surprised how much money you can save.
- Book 7 or 8 weeks in advance: There are several theories about how early should one book the tickets. In my personal experience, I have found that most airlines release cheapest tickets about 12 month in advance which are few and get sold out pretty quickly. If you miss them, wait until its 7/8 weeks to the journey date, you will find the price at its lowest point. According to this huffington article, Jeff Klee (CEO of CheapAir.com) says that “the low point is 47 days in advance, on average.” For example, CheapAir monitored a 7-day flight from Los Angeles to New York to see how many times the price changed. About 320 days before the trip, the flight cost $357. But about 3 months before the trip, the flight dipped to $318. Overall, the price changed 107 times, going as low as $290 and as high as $597.
- Hidden city Ticketing: Hidden city ticketing occurs when a traveler books a multiple hop flight but disembarks on one of the layovers. For eg: say you’re flying from New York to Chicago and the cheapest flight you can find is $650. But suppose you are able to a find a cheaper flight out of New York that has a stop in Chicago before venturing on to a final destination elsewhere in the United States. So, you book this flight and get off in Chicago and save yourself some money. The reason this works is because New-York – Chicago is a high paying route and people are willing to shell out few extra $$ instead of New-York to Kentucky for eg. Though it isn’t illegal, many airlines bar it in their terms of service, so be sure to read them before you try this method out. Southwest, for example, is one airline that won’t penalize you for utilizing this tactic, as their terms of service doesn’t specifically prohibit it. Skiplagged and Flyshortcut are two sites which show hidden city tickets.
- Alaska Air Companion Fares: Alaska airlines offer companion fares to their loyal customers who sign up for their travel VISA card. These are promotional fares where they offer a flat fess of $121 for a companion once every year. It works well when you are planning a vacation to one of the busy routes during peak season. I have been using Alaska airlines companion fares once a year for an exotic vacation (hawaii, mexico, peurto rico) during Dec holiday season where tickets were already 500-600$ per head and I could use companion fare and get two tickets for ~600-700.
- Expedia Canada/Japan: Airlines price their tickets based on the location where they are being searched from. And its often cheaper to book the SAME flight from a Canada or Japan location. Note that Expedia will not show you CAD/Peso prices unless your IP Address resolves to those location. You could use any well known VPN solution/Cloud VM to achieve the same. You can go to Expedia Japan for Yen pricing or Expedia Canada for CAD pricing. Quite often, I have found tickets on Expedia Canada websites to be cheaper especially due to exchange rate these days.
- Fifth-freedom Flights: Fifth-freedom refers to the right for an airline to carry revenue traffic between two foreign countries as part of a service connecting the airline’s home country. For instance, Singapore Airlines operates a flight from NewYork to Singapore with a stop in Frankfurt. As NY and Frankfurt are different countries , its is a 5th Freedom flight and offer tickets at heavily discounted rates. Typically, airlines NOT allowed to advertise these route either on their website or third-party sites like Expedia, Priceline. These flights are often cheaper than those operated by carriers based in these respective countries. I used one such 5th-freedmon flight to book our tickets to Europe for as low as $750 roundtrip. I have observed that they are quite useful for booking tickets in USA – Europe sector. I have observed from personal experience that CheapOAir does list some of ‘Fifth-freedom’ flights in its search results. Apart from them, I have an exhaustive list of airlines who offer fifth-freedom tickets. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Flight aggregation sites: As I explained earlier, airlines change their fares quite often. Using fare alerts can be quite useful. Hipmunk.com and Kayak.com are travel aggregation sites with possibility the best and most intuitive UI design. Kayak has an algorithm that can see trends in pricing, historical prices and will tell you whether to buy now or wait. If you are an advanced user, try out Matrix ItaSoftware (not great UI, but a lot of advanced filters and features). Google Flights and Skyscanner are also quite popular among travelers.
- Crowdsourced Travel: You can use which is a website for crowdsourced travel. You create a competition and experts try to find you the cheapest tickets. The more expensive your flight is the more benefit you will get from Flightfox. I haven’t tried them personally, but it looks promising.