Busted: The Truth Behind 6 Air Travel Myths

One of my favorite air travel myths concerns never letting a nutty (or maybe drunken) passenger anywhere near the door of a plane in flight because – what if they opened it?

Don’t worry; it can’t be done. Which is nice to know but it’s even nicer to save money by busting myths, so let’s do that now.

LISTEN: Myths, schmyths, Rick Seaney deals in facts – facts to help you save money.

Read Podcast Transcript here.

6 Airline Ticket Shopping Myths – Busted

1. MYTH: That super-cheap airline always has the cheapest ticket prices.

  • BUSTED. No airline always has the cheapest deals. In fact you’ll often find multiple airlines with the identical cheapest price because airlines match the competition to avoid ending up on page 20 of your search results.

Sometimes you get a surprise, too. These round-trip fares were found for a mid-June flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco:

  • Spirit Airlines: $272
  • Virgin America: $138

Spirit often has cheap fares, but not always the cheapest. Compare airfares and save.

2. MYTH: Purchase airline tickets way ahead of time for the biggest savings.

  • BUSTED. Airlines don’t begin actively managing their fares for domestic flights until about three to three-and-a-half months ahead (and for international flights, make that five months). If you buy before that, you’ll likely pay a mid-range price. NOTE: When it comes to holiday periods like Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can (and should) buy earlier than you normally would.

3. MYTH: Wait to buy airline tickets until the very last minute and they’ll be dirt cheap.

  • BUSTED: This was sometimes true years ago but not in the modern era when airlines have learned to fill up empty middle seats through capacity cutting. Bottom line: Incredible, last-minute deals have gone the way of free meals in coach.

4. MYTH: Adding a stop or two to your route will always mean a cheaper ticket. 

  • BUSTED: This is a bit of trick question because adding a stop can be an excellent way to save but not always. You won’t know unless you compare fares so give it a whirl next time you shop for tickets.

5. MYTH: Forget that expensive ticket for a dream vacation in summer, just use miles.

  • BUSTED: You may be able to do this, but it’s getting harder and harder as airlines tighten rules on loyalty programs and tilt benefits toward higher-paying flyers like business travelers. Don’t be shocked if awards tickets to a popular destination are only available in the off-season. But we hope you get lucky.

6. MYTH:  It’s okay to cram a carry-on bag until it bursts at the seams.

  • BUSTED: Airlines like United are coming down hard on carry-size limits – you can find the specifics on your carrier’s website – and if you don’t meet the requirements, you may have to pay the bag fee. Or even worse, the overweight bag fee: Virgin America says a carry-on must be under 30 pounds, Allegiant says 25 pounds maximum, and Europe’s Ryanair allows a mere 22 pounds. Don’t pay more than you have to, pack light.

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Published: May 14, 2014