Who Will Pay More for Airline Tickets This Year (Not Everyone)

A recent headline that caught my eye about something that “could change flying forever.” Turned out to be a new airline seatback tray table (which I must admit sounds good thanks to a strategically-placed groove for your iPad).

LISTEN: Airfare expert Rick Seaney’s tips on saving.

I mention this to show that headlines can sometimes be a little misleading like another I saw recently – about how airfares have risen a 12 percent over the past few years. Fact: Not everyone has been (or will) pay such dramatically higher prices.

How to save money when you book airfare

Passengers Paying More

Voluntary premium-payers: Some passenger voluntarily pay more because convenience is worth it to them. We’re talking about non-stop flights or waiting until the last minute to buy a ticket or perhaps an early boarding fee. These things can significantly add to the cost of a ticket but to some people, it’s worth it. Such extras also raise fare averages.

Smaller city passengers: In recent years, travelers in smaller cities have been hit with the double whammy of discontinued routes (or fewer flights) and the resulting higher airfares. Nothing personal, just the new business model called No More Empty Middle Seats; such capacity-cutting has helped airlines regain their financial health so don’t look for this to change any time soon, if ever.

Passengers Paying the Same (or Less)

Larger, competitive hub dwellers: If you live in New York or Los Angeles, getting to the airport is probably far more of a pain that purchasing tickets. Hubs offer plenty of competition which keeps fares down. The best deals year-round are hub-to-hub flights with flying times of 90 minutes or so, which includes routes like Dallas to Houston, New York to Boston, Miami to Tampa and more). In fact, these routes are so competitive that they are largely unaffected by traditional price hikes during holidays.

Smaller but highly competitive city dwellers: Boston and Denver are extremely competitive with the cheap fares to prove it. Plus every now and then an airline will focus on a route and offer deals to build it up; JetBlue’s inexpensive fares between New York and Charleston, S.C. are an example.

Save Money: Where and How You Fly Matters

There are several ways to save on your next flight, but here are some of the more important ones.

  • Fly in and out of large airports: It may involve a longer drive but the saving may be worth it.
  • Avoid non-stops: This isn’t always true but often connecting flights can save you money (and sometimes, a lot of money).
  • Shop on Tuesday: Tuesday afternoons at about 3 p.m. eastern time will provide you with the most cheap fares available. Book by Thursday though, as most deals expire within 48 hours.

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Published: February 10, 2014