Why Can’t I Find the Airfare Deal?

You’ve just seen a great airfare sale, maybe in our Deals Blog, maybe on an airline site. You look for one of the advertised prices but can’t find it. Is this a scam? No. But there are things you must know in order to find a super-cheap sale ticket.

LISTEN: End the frustration!

5 Reasons You Can’t Find the Airfare Deal

  1. Deals can sell out

Maybe the sale you’re looking at doesn’t expire for two more days, but you can’t find the deal you want. Possible reason: The deals were already purchased by other shoppers; the inventory has sold-out. Sale seats are finite in number (usually) and when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Tip: When you are alerted to a sale, check out the deals immediately.

  1. Missed the advance purchase deadlines

Some sales require advance purchase of one or two weeks or even 21 days before you fly. If you are looking for a flight sooner than the advance booking requirement, you probably won’t find it.

Tip: Read the fine print.

  1. Failed to follow required travel dates

Two things to watch for that we sometimes forget about.

  • Blackout dates: These are dates that are excluded from a sale and usually include holiday travel periods and other popular dates such as Spring Break in the U.S. and the vacation months of June, July and August.
  • Excluded days: These often include Fridays and Sundays because they are popular days to fly (and the airlines will have no problem selling these tickets at the regular non-sale prices). Some sales are even stricter, offering their best deals for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only.

Tip: Try to be as flexible as possible with your itinerary.

  1. Failure to add in the fees

You may think you got the best deal, but maybe you didn’t – especially if you failed to add in the fees. This example of round-trip airfare for a flight between Los Angeles and New York (November 2015) illustrates the point:

  • Spirit: $422
  • Southwest: $442

At first glance it appears Spirit has the better deal, but Spirit charges for both carry-ons and checked-bags. That will push Spirit’s fare higher than Southwest’s in this instance, thanks to Southwest’s free bags policy.

Tip: Don’t ding your credit card until after you peruse the fees.

  1. Best deals are not refundable

You found a deal but need to change it. Not so fast! Most sale tickets are non-refundable and the airlines will not provide reimbursement even in dire situations*; they will, however, change your ticket for a fee of to $200. The alternative is to pay more for a refundable ticket or fly Southwest which has no change fee.

*Tip: Never rely on an airline to show mercy in such cases. It happens, but it is not the norm.

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Updated: November 5, 2015