Think you need to book a round-trip flight with a Saturday night stay to find a cheap fare? That is so the year 2000. Even if you used to be a travel guru – always able to track down the cheapest tickets – you may be surprised to hear that the rules have changed. Here are those common myths of yesterday – and the real airfare truths of today.
Myth 1: Saturday night stays are required for getting good fares.
This old standby does not really apply anymore. The Saturday night stay rule began after airline deregulation and was used so that business fliers (who did not want to spend their weekends on business trips) had to pay more for their tickets. Today, budget airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue compete for business travelers, prompting many airlines to lose the Saturday night stay rules for cheap flights. Routes with the most competition for business travelers are the least likely to have the Saturday night stay requirement.
Myth 2: The earlier you book a flight, the better.
Airlines do not start releasing cheaper seats until three to four months before departure for domestic travel and conversely four to five months before international travel. Our When-to-Buy airline ticket guide walks you through the details.
Myth 3: To find the lowest fares, check fare sites repeatedly, book when you think you have a good deal and hope you didn’t pay too much.
Luckily for passengers, FareCompare sends out fare alerts, Tweets and other notifications that let you know when super flight deals become available, making the “lather, rinse, repeat” method of searching for fares a thing of the past.
Myth 4: It takes an hour to complete a one-hour flight.
While planes now land on time more often than they used to, getting through security can add an hour or two to any plane trip, depending on time of day and day of the week. There are more instances now where it is faster to drive than to fly.
Myth 5: I will pick up a snow globe for my kids on the way to the airport.
Not unless you plan to wrap it securely and put it in your checked luggage. The TSA cannot accurately gauge the amount of liquid in a snow globe, and will not let it through with your 3-ounce bottle of shampoo.
Myth 6: I can charge my electronics once I arrive at my destination.
If your flight is delayed, you will want a fully charged phone, laptop or iPad to keep you occupied. You may not find a place you can plug it in while waiting. You are smart to charge everything before going to the airport.
Myth 7: I can avoid being stuck in a middle seat.
Not anymore. When you book online, you will see a nice mix of window and aisle seats, but they are not always available. Sometimes you can grab a decent seat when you check in online 24 hours before departure, but do not count on it. Planes are booked more fully than ever before.
Myth 8: My things will be fine in the overhead bin.
Since airlines started charging extra for checked luggage, people have been carrying on as much as possible. This means that overhead bins are crammed with stuff. It is not a good idea to put anything fragile or crushable up there.
Myth 9: People dress to impress when they fly.
Today, people fly wearing everything from pajama pants to outfits that would make Pamela Anderson blush. Usually they get away with it, unless they are egregiously exposed.
Myth 10: They will not kick me off the plane for being large.
They might. Airlines generally try reseating overweight or very tall passengers to maximize passenger comfort, but some have policies requiring very large people to purchase two seats. If extra seats are unavailable, an overweight person may be bumped to a later flight.