Six Things Airlines Won't Tell You

Ever wonder what you’re missing when it comes to shopping for airline tickets or getting the best possible flight experience? The airlines won’t always tell you but I will.

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6 Air Travel Secrets

What follows includes some of my all-time favorite airfare shopping tips.

1. There’s really only one day to shop for airline tickets

If you’re buying a flat screen TV, it doesn’t matter if you shop the weekend or a Tuesday night. Barring a Black Friday special, you’ll pay the same. This is not true for airline tickets.

Long time readers know that Tuesday is the best day to shop for airfare because basically it’s airfare sale launch day. That’s right, most sales are launched on Tuesday and generally last for three days.

  • Tip: Don’t wait until Day 3 of a three day sale to get your deal – or even Day 2 or late on Day 3. Seats are limited and may go fast. When the supply of sale seats dries up, it does not get replenished.

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2. Ticket prices rise and fall from day to day and flight to flight

It matters when you fly. Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the cheapest days to fly, and often Saturday.

  • Tip: The most expensive days to fly are the most popular days: Fridays and Sundays.

3. You can get to the airport on-time – and still be late

It may not seem like it sometimes, but airlines don’t like delays any more than you do. When they’re late, they get a public shaming since the government publishes airline on-time performance statistics. To help remedy this, sometimes flights leave a five, 10 or even 15 minutes earlier than scheduled – and if you’re not there, they will not wait for you.

  • Tip: Get to the gate in plenty of time – sliding in at the last moment is so ’90s.

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4. Bag fees are not always optional

There in no way to avoid baggage fees on Allegiant and Spirit, since both airlines charge for check-bags and carry-ons. On the brighter side, JetBlue and Southwest give you free checked bags and free carry-ons. Sadly, the trend points to more and more fees, and I’ve joked that we may eventually have to fly naked to avoid paying altogether.

5. Don’t believe everything an airline tells you

It’s not that the airlines are lying to you when they say a mechanical delay will last an hour – sometimes, they just don’t know. So, they guess. And if they’re wrong and the delay only lasts half an hour, guess what? The plane leaves – and it leaves without you if you’re not in the gate area.

  • Tip: When any kind of delay is announced, stay within earshot of any PA announcements.

6. Fly hungry

One of the cheapest times of day to fly is at dawn (another: overnight). Do what you hate to do: Get up early and fly before breakfast. A growling stomach is a sure sign of a good deal.

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Published: October 18, 2012