Domestic flights within the United States score high on convenience but low on budget; a 2013 report from the Bureau of Transportation list the average fare at $381, not including additional fees paid at the airport—marking a 30% increase from 1995. The number of business professionals who fly for work is also growing, yet this can make balancing checkbook for a monthly travel budget an unpleasant task for them. But thanks to the power of Internet research, there are still a few tricks available to help slash ticket costs.
The standby ticket has undergone a transformation over time. Travelers were previously able to secure cheap plane tickets by waiting for flights with empty seats; these days, though, airlines generally require that passengers purchase a ticket and only then allow them the option of switching to an earlier or later flight if there are empty seats available. So if you’ve bought an economical red-eye ticket but have a hankering to switch to an earlier, more expensive flight, flying standby can be a cheaper alternative. Be warned, though: Flights with better timelines are often more popular, so the chances of securing a seat can be slim.
Comparing a large number of available fares is one of the best ways to scout out cheap tickets, but individually searching out websites and airlines can be a time-consuming hassle. Bookingbuddy.com solves this problem by comparing the top travels sites for you; travelers simply enter their travel dates and the website brings up the cheapest tickets available from a variety of sites, such as Expedia and Orbitz. There isn’t always a significant price discrepancy between the sites, but the convenience of having all the information is one place is hard to beat.
If you’re willing to consider red-eye flights, smaller airports or flights with multiple stops, Priceline.com has the potential to be valuable tool for snagging a deal. Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” concept, where users name a price they would be willing to pay for a ticket and the website negotiates a deal with the airline, can save travelers significant amounts of money—particularly for passengers with some flexibility in their travel plans. Be sure to study the numbers carefully when choosing a ticket, as the fare can sometimes vary slightly from Priceline’s listed price when the website reviews your “Name Your Own Price” offer.
Airlines first began charging for checked baggage in 2008, and according to a recent CNN report, U.S. companies are now picking up $6.16 billion in combined baggage and reservation change fees. If the price of a fare seems too good to be true, be sure to check out the airline’s baggage policies. Spirit Airlines, for example, charges anywhere from $26 to $100 for just a carry-on; checked bags are similarly priced. Frontier Airlines allows one small carry-on, such as a purse or a backpack, but a second carry-on will cost $25 to $50. Traveling without checked luggage is ideal for a low-cost trip but even if you’re not checking a bag, be sure to investigate airlines before buying. Seemingly low-cost tickets can end up being less of a bargain if the baggage fees are exuberant.
Buy on Tuesday/Fly on Wednesday
When you’re ready to start booking tickets, one of the easiest ways to save money is by buying on a Tuesday. A study by Farecompare.com revealed that Tuesday, at 3pm EST, was the best time to score cheap fares; weekend prices were more expensive. Similarly, studies from the same website showed that Wednesdays—particularly the first flight of the day—were one of the cheapest days to fly.
Look Into Air Taxis
As the number of business professionals who commute via air continues to grow, some companies are pioneering an air taxi movement that offers the convenience of air travel without the hassle of going through an airport. Surfair, a membership airline that opened in June of 2013, offers unlimited flights between Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and the Bay area for a monthly fee of around $1600. Without advanced security screenings and baggage fees, flying Surfair can eliminate both hassle and, depending on how often you fly for work, excessive travel costs. There is a waitlist to join, but if the company and others like it continue to grow, air taxis may be the upcoming bargain travel option.
Flying grows more expensive each year, but even as expenses change, there are ways to utilise this convenient form of transportation while on a budget. The availability of information on Internet means that business professionals who fly frequently for work still have a number of options to help cut the cost of booking tickets.