Think that figuring out airfares these days is a little like being lost in a maze where no one’s even left you a clue?
Most domestic flights offer two types of service: first and full fare coach, which have very few restrictions attached. Overseas flights may also offer unrestricted business class fares. In addition, there are many other types of discounted, promotional coach fares with many restrictions and, often, route a traveler may be able to choose among several airlines offering many different flights at many different prices.
To choose among the alternatives, you must first determine your priorities. A businessperson’s priority may be to get from New York to Los Angeles in time for a luncheon on Monday, while a leisure traveler might rate budget a higher priority.
Airlines reserve some seats at full fare for business travelers who must book on short notice and cannot look for bargains. Other seats are cheaper, with the biggest bargains offered at the least traveled times and days, with minimum and maximum stay requirements, a Saturday night stay-over requirement, advance reservations and payment, and cancellation penalties from 25-100 percent.
Why do the biggest bargains always seem to be sold out? The attempt to reserve one of these super bargains is frustrating because there are limited seats on any given flight set aside at bargain rates. To complicate matters further, the airlines, in order to reap the most profits on a flight, juggle the fares, resulting in the phenomenon of a traveler being able to get a super bargain one day that wasn’t available only the day before.
Maximize your opportunities to get the most economical fares, comments one expert, by keeping the following in mind:
First and foremost be flexible. Airlines charge the most for those passengers who are the least flexible. If you must travel on short notice during peak times, you’ll pay a premium.
Book your trip as far in advance as possible. The farther ahead, the better your chances of getting one of the bargain fares.
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