Top Air Travel Winners and Losers: Passengers vs. Airlines

Top Air Travel Winners and Losers: Passengers vs. Airlines

Learn which airfare situations are good for you and which are good for the airlines. Follow these tips for cheaper flights and a better air travel experience.

Listen as FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney tells you the big winner in the aviation world this summer.

1. Avoid Political Stalemates: Airlines Win

In July of 2011, U.S. congressional dithering stalled the re-authorization of the FAA; that meant a lot of airline ticket taxes normally marked for government use went uncollected. Passengers were expected to reap this minor windfall; instead, most airlines raised prices (except for Alaska and Spirit) and pocketed an extra $20-30 million dollars a day.

Passengers can win next time by following our News blog so they know which airlines are not joining in on the cash grab, and by always comparing prices on FareCompare to be sure they’re getting the cheapest flights whenever they choose to fly.

2. Fly Cheaper Seasons: Passengers Win

For many travelers, summer vacation means June, July or early August. FareCompare search engines pin-pointed the magic date launching the cheaper fall airfare as Aug. 23. I expect some pretty aggressive price drops in the next few weeks. Shop for Fall airfare all the way up to November and try to depart on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

3. Book Too Early: Airlines Win

Buy your airline tickets too early, and you can miss seasonal price drops. This is because the airlines don’t release their cheapest prices until about 3-and-a-half months before departure. Buy earlier and chances are good you’ll pay more than you should.

4. Shop Tuesdays: Passengers Win

Even in times of airline or government crisis, this rule remains largely unaffected: for the cheapest airfares, shop Tuesdays at 3pm eastern time. This is when the most airlines will match sale prices and shoppers have the most cheap fares to choose from.

5. Fly Low Cost Airlines: Some Passengers Win, Some Airlines Win

Two recent examples highlight this win-win:

Spirit Airlines did not raise prices during the July/August 2011 tax holiday, so its passengers saved more than usual. However, Spirit Airlines fees can be nasty; it is the only airline in the U.S. that charges a carryon bag fee (which can cost as much as $45 each-way).

Royal British newlyweds Will and Kate recently flew a discount airline in the UK. They saved money, but such carriers typically do not have first or business class (or in some cases, assigned seats) so fliers exchange some comforts for price. The royals, we are told, enjoyed the flight, and presumably, the savings.

More from Rick Seaney:

Winners and Losers in Air Travel

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Published: August 10, 2011