Read a great article by Christopher Elliot today, titled Ridiculous or Not? Low-Cost Airlines That Cost More. It gave the example of how Southwest, one of the most popular low-cost airlines in America, sometimes has higher fares than full service carriers like US Airways. It gets away with this because it labels itself as a “low-cost” airline, so people generally make assumptions that it’s cheaper than the rest and don’t bother doing their research.
The lesson here is that we should always do our research, and never make assumptions. Full-service carriers regularly do promotions that can make themselves cheaper, or just slightly more expensive, than low-cost carriers. Some tips to get a cheaper fare:
1. Sign up for an airline / travel agent’s newsletter to get wind of new promotions
2. Travel during traditional lull periods – avoid peak seasons like summer or Christmas holidays
3. Research carriers that don’t have a strong presence in the country you’re flying from – they’re more likely to drop their fares to grab hold of more passengers since they don’t have a home ground advantage.
4. Book your ticket in advance. Seats go on sale as early as a year in advance, and that’s one of the cheapest times to buy. Prices generally climb when you get closer to the departure date.
5. Check the news for any big carriers operating into a country for the first time. It’s likely that the other carriers will drop their fares because of the increased competition.