Strategies For Locking in Discounted Airfare
Even your travel agent will tell you: there isn’t just one clear-cut path to finding discounted airfare. Well-connected agents have access to negotiated and bulk rates, but they’ll still want to check a few places before giving you their lowest quote. So you, as a consumer, should know that your mission to find the lowest discounted airfare may be a tedious one.
Know your options
Thanks to some handy online tools, it’s not too difficult to get a handle on domestic airfare. Your first priority will be to know which airlines actually fly into your selected destination. If you are flying into a relatively small domestic airport, this step is as easy as visiting the airport’s website. If you are flying into a major domestic destination or any international destination, search for your itinerary with a couple of online travel agencies that consolidate inventory from various suppliers. Make a note of the prices and list out the airlines that show up in the search results.
Go straight to the source
Armed with your airline options, go straight to those airlines’ websites and price your trip. Also check Southwest Airlines’ website, since Southwest fares don’t show up in third-party sites. Pricing your trip directly with the airlines allows you to see published fares that are free of booking fees. If you want discounted airfare, these published rates are the benchmarks you need to beat.
Finding the deals
Travel wholesalers and established travel agencies have access to discounted airfare, but you won’t see any ads that tell you how to find those lower rates. If you have a trusted agent, you can simply tell her what you know about the published rates and ask her if she has anything cheaper. Established agencies offer their customers online booking that consolidates airfare inventory from a variety of sources; this type of system will give you access to any discounted airfares in the system plus customized itineraries that combine flights from different airlines. Look for special symbols next to the search results to indicate exclusive or discounted fares; they might be marked with “exclusive fare” or something similar. Compare these rates to the ones you found when you were identifying available itineraries.
One caveat though: if you find the discounted airfare you want, you’d better book it fast. The best airfare deals don’t last, particularly when a large network of agents is working to sell them.
You can also try bundling your airfare with your hotel or rental car. This is a relatively well known strategy, but it’s still an effective way to reduce your overall travel costs. Travel wholesalers often hide discounted airfare within the bundled package; this allows them to compete without contradicting the airlines’ published fares.
(c) Catherine Brock
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