Airfares aren’t falling. They’re not going up either. They’re jumping around more erratically than ever. George Hobica, founder of Airfarwatchdog.com puts the trend this way in a recent interview with Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site:
“If I knew [that ticket prices were going up] I wouldn’t be sitting here answering these questions. Seriously, no one can predict because there are so many variables: oil prices, further industry consolidation, geopolitical events, natural and manmade disasters, and so on. Over the long term, yes fares will creep upwards, if only due to inflation. But consumers have a breaking point and they are only willing to pay so much to sit in a tin can on a thinly padded seat, get pawed by TSA, breathe stale air, and deal with cranky babies and passengers of size spilling over into their space. So fares will only go up so much; they’re inelastic.”
There are a few tricks that can help you find a good deal—one in particular. I flew from New York City to Marrakesh last winter. Round trip airfare never dropped below $1,200 during the two months I looked for a ticket. Then a friend told me that Ryanair flew from Europe to Marrakesh, so I checked their rates. $75 each way from Paris. After a half hour I found a $365 round trip flight to Paris, matched it with a Ryanair flight and booked my trip for a grand total of $565, including fees.
It takes a lot of work to find a good price price. (The average consumer checks three airline web sites before buying a ticket.) Here are a few tips you might not know:
Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays. Most flight sales start on Tuesdays. Airlines typically release seating Tuesday night as well.
Not all search sites include budget airlines. (Budget airlines won’t pay their commission.) Skyscanner includes just about everything, though on a recent search I didn’t find anything I hadn’t already seen.
Airfarewatchdog is a great site, powered by humans. Checking multiple sites these days doesn’t help as much as it used to. Having a human looking for low fares for you does.
Airlines like Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest will give you a voucher if the fare drops after you buy it—and Yapta.com will track those refunds for you. Orbitz also offers a “Price Assurance” program.
Secondary airports—like Long Beach instead of LAX—are often cheaper to fly into. (I had to transfer from Charles de Gaulle to Orly airport in Paris on my Morocco trip. I booked enough of a layover to have breakfast in Montmartre and sleep for two hours in the Jardin du Luxembourg on the way…)