Essential Air Fare Tips
Because of the emphasis on price competition, consumers may choose from a wide
variety of air fares. Some airlines are trying a "back to basics"
approach-offering flights at bargain basement prices with few extras.
For fare information, you can contact a travel agent, another ticket outlet or
an airline serving the places you want to visit. Ask them to tell you the names
of all airlines flying there. A travel agent can find virtually all airlines'
fares in his or her computer. Or, if you prefer, you can call each airline to
ask about the fares they charge, particularly any special promotional fares they
may be offering at the time. You can also pay attention to newspaper and radio
ads, where airlines advertise many of the discount plans that apply to your
city. Finally, be alert to new companies.
Here are some tips to help you decide among air fares:
* Be flexible in your travel plans in order to get the lowest fare. The best
deals may be limited to travel on certain days of the week or particular
hours of the day. After you get a fare quote, ask the reservations agent if
you could save even more by leaving a day earlier or later, or by taking a
different flight on the same day.
* Plan as far ahead as you can. Some airlines set aside only a few seats on
each flight at the lower rates. The real bargains often sell out very
quickly. On the other hand, air carriers sometimes make more discount seats
available later. If you decided against a trip because the discount fare you
wanted was not available on the desired date, try again, especially just
before the advance-purchase deadline.
* Some airlines may have discounts that others don't offer. In a large
metropolitan area, the fare could depend on which airport you use. Also, a
connection (change of planes) or a one-stop flight is sometimes cheaper than
* Does the air fare include types of service that airlines have traditionally
provided, such as meals or free baggage handling? If you have a connection
involving two airlines, will your bags be transferred? Can you get advance
seat assignments? If you are stranded, will the ticket be good on another
carrier at no extra charge? Will the first airline pay for meals or hotel
rooms during the wait?
* Many discount fares are non-refundable; if you buy one of these fares and
later cancel your trip, you will not get your money back. Some fares also
have a penalty for changing flights or dates even if you don't want a
refund. You may also have to pay any difference in air fares if your fare is
not available on the new flight.
* Some airlines will not increase the fare after the ticket is issued and paid
for. (Simply holding a reservation without a ticket does not guarantee the
fare.) Other airlines may reserve the right to collect more money from you
if the fare that you had purchased goes up before departure time. Find out
from the airline before you buy your ticket what its policy is on assessing
fare increases after the ticket is purchased.
* After you buy your ticket, call the airline or travel agent once or twice
before departure to check the fare. Fares change all the time, and if that
same fare goes down before you fly, some airlines will refund the
difference. But you have to ask.
Differences in air fares can be substantial. Careful comparison shopping among
airlines does take time, but it can lead to real savings.
Information Provided by the U. S. Department of Transportation.
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