Finding Cheap Flights: 4 Risky Ways to Save

Go ahead, gamble on airfare. The payoff can be big but be prepared for the possibility of taking a loss – which could mean you’ll sit at home this summer.

Listen as Rick Seaney and Anne McDermott weigh the pros and cons of being a ‘daredevil’:

Attention, Procrastinators

These risky strategies may be especially useful for procrastinators who didn’t buy early and are now reduced to trying to find the best of the not-so-good deals. For daredevils only.

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1. Standby options

Ticketed standby: You have a ticket but want to try for a better flight on the same day, a flight that may be at a more convenient time or is a non-stop vs. a connecting flight.

Risk: Same-day standby on most airlines will cost a fee, unless your original ticket is a pricier one that allows changes for free.

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AirTran U: This is a program for relatively inexpensive flights.

Risk: You must be between 18 and 22 years of age to take advantage of these deals.

Buy an airline employee pass: Maybe you know a flight attendant or other airline employee who will let you buy a perks – the use of a friends-and-family pass. These are not free but a lot cheaper than a regular ticket.

Risk: There is no guarantee the flight you want will have room for you, especially since these passholders are typically given lowest boarding status for standby. An acquaintance recently racked up more than $400 in hotel and meal bills in a vain attempt to find a seat to her European destination. After trying for four days she eventually decided to cut her losses.

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2. Last-minute deals

Several airlines including American, United and US Airways feature weekly, last-minute sales for the upcoming weekend. The deals are sometimes spectacular but usually just pretty good.

Risk: Destinations are limited to select cities and may not go include anyplace that interests you.

3. Red-eye flights

Overnight or red-eye flights can mean substantial savings over leisurely day-time departures.

Risk: If your vacation time is short, do you really want to spend part of it too tired to enjoy yourself?

4. Destination cheating

Maybe you just want to fly one-way but you notice the round-trip flight is actually cheaper than one-way, so you buy the full ticket and discard the rest. Or you discover your destination is expensive, but notice it’s a stop along the way on another, cheaper flight so you buy that ticket and get off early. This is called throwaway ticketing and hidden city ticketing respectively and it is banned by most airlines – although people have been known to try it.

Risk: You could be stripped of your entire ticket – as well as your frequent flyer miles.


Published: June 26, 2012