Top Ten Tips to Combat Sharp Hikes in Summer Air Travel

Where have all the airfare sales gone?

I have been getting this question for weeks and frankly there isn’t much reason for airlines to discount airline tickets this summer.

Why So High?

The scales of domestic airline ticket pricing have tipped pretty dramatically into the carriers favor for summer departures compared to last year’s decade low prices for a variety of reasons:

  • Pent Up Demand -Travelers are voting with the credit cards this year, Flying Yes!, Staycations No!
  • Hassles of International Travel – Many travelers are opting to forego the hassles of transoceanic travel. Ash Clouds, Greek Financial Unrest, British Airways Strikes, Bangkok Upheaval and Mexico security are but a few of the issues keeping passengers closer to home (checkout our analysis of summer airfare to Europe).
  • Domestic Airfare Sales Fewer and Farther Between – Airlines have no incentive to discount as their planes fill up to the brim — they have maintained what the industry calls “capacity discipline” which means they are not being quick to add back seats they’ve removed over the past few years

What can a Determined Air Traveler Do to Cuts Costs?

Here is a quick list of tips that may soften the blow of ballooning summer airline ticket prices (and help you avoid potential hassles):

1. Be flexible – on both departure dates and destinations, prices can vary by $100’s of dollars per person to different locations on different departure days

2. Understand how airlines price their flights – educate yourself on how airlines price their cheapest flights, start with this quick article on understanding airline ticket pricing

3. Shop early and often – procrastination will not be your friend this year, expect to pay a premium especially for those convenient nonstops

4. Don’t Wait If You See a Good Price – good deals don’t last until you can negotiate with your significant other later tonight (by shopping early you’ll have a good idea what is a good price)

5. Buy Airline Tickets on Dips – use technology like our real time airfare price drop alerts to notify you when airline discount their flights

6. Avoid traveling on Sunday – Legacy airlines are charging a $30 peak travel surcharge this summer for Sundays ($20 for Thursday/Friday, Saturday and Monday)

7. Shop Tuesday 3pm – when most airlines have matched airfare sales initiated by at least one airline late Monday night (sales are very limited for Summer)

8. Avoid weekend shopping – airlines typically pull the few summer discounted flights they have on Thursday night leaving higher prices in the reservation systems on weekends

9. Be Prepared for Packed Summer Planes – have an air travel backup plan once you buy your tickets. Summer thunderstorms and the new 3 hour tarmac rule may have you stuck at the airport for days

10. Pack Light – don’t get hit with $50 roundtrip first checked bag fees at the airport

11. Use Your Miles – if you are a frequent traveler, use your miles or those of a friend (or even buy the miles you need on your airline’s website). Remember, those miles are worth much more when ticket prices are high


Updated: February 9, 2016