Airline Hikes During Airfare Sales: What You Need to Know to Save

Last week’s airfare hike – which was a successful one – came at an odd time, with the airlines raising their prices even as they touted airfare sales. If you were one of those shoppers wondering what the heck was going on, here are some answers and some tips.

How to Find the Rare Summer Deal

Base Fares Rise $2 to $5 Each-Way

Airfare hikes and sales can and do coexist. When hikes are successful, it just means the overall airfare base price goes up, and the sale discounting from that point forward comes off of the new higher base price. It may not even seem particularly painful. For example, last week’s hike – initiated by United Airlines – raised prices by just $2 to $5 round-trip.

Of course, when you add up all the hikes (four successful ones so far this year and a total of nine successes in 2011), there is significantly more pain in the wallet.

Cheapest Days to Fly

Sales Continue, to Move Unpopular Seats

However, even a rise of a few dollars each way can slow down bookings, which is why only about half of all airfare hikes succeed. As for sales, they go on as usual because the airlines need them to fill up seats on certain flights. That’s right: a lot of sales have a catch.

Often, airfare sales target weak routes and days, when passengers need extra prodding to buy. For example, many airfare sales are limited to Tuesdays and Wednesday, which are typically the least popular days to fly (and therefore, among the cheapest days to fly).

Airfare Prices to Plunge Dramatically

Big Savings Start Aug. 21

A lot of airfare shoppers may skip these deals – who wants to start a vacation in midweek? – but frugal and flexible flyers can take advantage of these deals and save big. Another way to save: avoid the summer rush. Travel starting toward the end of the summer, beginning about Aug. 21 which is when the legacy carriers strip off the peak travel season surcharges of summer. When this happens, watch ticket prices drop from 10 percent to 20 precent.

More Airfare Hikes on the Way?

There may be more airfare hike attempts, which may or may not be successful, but that’s not necessarily the point as far as the airlines are concerned. They launch hikes partly for exploratory reasons, trying to determine if there’s any appetite among passengers for higher prices. They can’t just ask consumers, because they’ll say, no we won’t pay more. However, if the airlines raise prices and people keep flying, they’ll know some appetite exists – at least for the time being.

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Published: July 24, 2012