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How can I get Cheap Airline Tickets?

Michael Pollick
Updated: Jan 21, 2024

Finding cheaper airline tickets today can mean scrutinizing several different online travel services along with the official carrier websites. Some of these websites allow potential customers to flag selected flights whenever deeper discounts become available. Other services such as Priceline may allow customers to bid for lower price tickets, but they can also require immediate purchase of those tickets or a much more flexible schedule. Cheaper tickets can be found through online services, but be prepared for unpopular departure times and long layovers in airline hubs.

Another source for cheap airline tickets is a travel agency. Many times a professional travel agent can negotiate a package deal which lowers the price of the tickets as long as a specific hotel or car rental is booked. This type of discount would most likely be connected to popular tourist destinations such as Orlando or Las Vegas. It might not apply to those traveling to a family reunion in Des Moines, Iowa, but it never hurts to ask the travel agent for any possible package deal.

Some people find cheaper airline tickets by thinking outside their comfort zone. The closest airport does not necessarily offer the lowest fares. If you are willing to drive to a different airport, the savings could be substantial.

The same holds true for the destination city as well. A flight from a regional airport in Huntsville, Alabama to another regional airport in Akron, Ohio might be more expensive than a flight from Birmingham to Cleveland. The reverse may also be true in some cases — a regional flight may be cheaper than flying out of a major airport.

While the airlines won't encourage this tactic, some people find cheaper airline tickets through a practice called 'overflying'. Overflying works best when the passenger's real destination is near an airline's hub city, such as Dallas, St. Louis or Atlanta. Instead of booking a direct flight to one of these hub cities, a savvy passenger can book a less expensive trip with a planned stopover in a hub city. A direct flight to Dallas, for example, might be relatively expensive, but some American Airlines flights with connections in Dallas are often cheaper, since Dallas is a hub for American Airlines. The passenger simply deplanes in Dallas and does not board the connecting flight.

For those who prefer to remain above board, there is also the option of negotiating directly with the airlines for special discounts. Military personnel or students may qualify for substantial discounts, for example. Government employees may also be eligible for discounted airline tickets.

Sometimes a major airline uses discounts to encourage the use of its low-price commuter service. Occasionally airlines compete for business through 'fare wars', which may lower the price of some airline tickets by 40% or more. These savings are notoriously temporary, so it pays to book these flights as quickly as possible.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon73687 — On Mar 29, 2010

Try several airlines to make the perfect one, if you choose the Where To: date to be for example June 19 and the prices are really cheap, then you put the Return: date to be for example July 4. And the price is high, due to these terms the best idea is to keep changing the Return date to July 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 3, 2, 1 until you find the cheapest. Try several websites.

By elfi64 — On Jan 02, 2010

In your calculations keep in mind the luggage fee. Almost all airlines charge luggage fees, some charge even for the first piece of luggage. Exceptions are Southwest and Jet Blue airlines who do not charge luggage fees.

By 6pack — On Mar 10, 2008

New travel sites seem to pop up all the time. I can't wait til one builds a robust enough system that allows you to more specifically dial in your requirements and can work with your flexibilities to find the cheapest flight within your constraints. Sure would save a lot of time trying out the myriad variation of dates you might be willing to fly on!

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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