The Five Dumb Mistakes People Make When Buying Airline Tickets

The Single Smartest Thing Airfare Shoppers Can Do

If there’s one thing I want you to know, it would be this: Buy your airline tickets on Tuesday.

Some of you already know why: it’s because usually airlines launch sales on Monday nights (you see this a lot with AirTran and Southwest). And like sheep, the other airlines fall in line, discounting their own routes that overlap with the sales-leader’s. Airlines don’t want to charge more than anyone else, because they assume buyers will flock to the lowest price (and they do).

This business of price-matching is typically completed by Tuesday afternoon, and that’s the time to shop. If you wait for the weekend, chances are excellent that you’ll be out of luck, since these sales usually end by Thursday. Don’t delay. Ã? 

So that’s what you should do. Now I’ve got a list of what not to do. Call it Five Dumb Mistakes.

Be a Smart Shopper and Find Great Deals on Flights Now

The Dumbest Things Airfare Shoppers Can Do

Follow these five steps and you won’t find bargains. However, I also explain the smart way to shop to get the cheapest available airfares every time.

1. Forget the Research

You have to do a little research – and really, just a little – in order to know what’s a good price when you see one.

Example: An ad blares, “LA to NY, Just $320!” Sounds good and you figure you’ll take advantage of that. But here’s the thing: I just saw this trip for $289 roundtrip in September. Know before you go, as they say.

All it takes is a quick look at a “flexible search calendar“. Simple? You bet.

2. Forget the Fine Print

This could be a mega-mistake; by ignoring that fine print you may be paying for more than you want to, such as Allegiant Air’s “convenience fee” of $14.99 for booking online (which I guess is convenient for Allegiant) or Spirit’s “passenger usage fee” of $8 each way, also for the privilege of booking your flight.

Don’t get me wrong, these carriers have very cheap fares and the extra fees may not make enough of a difference to bother you, but you should know what you’re paying for. That’s just common sense.

And also watch out for “pre-checked” boxes as you book your trip – such as the helpfully checked box for priority seating on Allegiant. Maybe you don’t want to pay for that extra comfort, but you might if you’re not paying attention. Same for trip insurance on some websites – look for checked boxes, and uncheck them if you’re so inclined.Ã? Ã? 

3. Forget Airfare Alerts

Chain yourself to your computer – no, wait, that’s what alerts are for. Sign up for airfare alerts on email or via Twitter so you learn when prices go down on the trips you want, without being a slave to your computer.

4. Forget Twitter, Forget Facebook

Are you familiar with something called JetBlueCheeps? That’s the popular airline’s Twitter account that you should be following for bargains. Other airlines have great deals on Twitter as well, and also on Facebook. And here’s the thing: you won’t find these deals anywhere else.

Would you pay $10 for a flight? That was a recent JetBlue deal found only on Twitter. Follow your favorite airlines on social media and we can show you how.

By the way, I recently helped a friend book a trip Down Under on United using that airline’s exclusive Twitter-only discount code. Roundtrip cost to Australia with the code: just $700. See what I mean?

5. Forget Flying Midweek

Here’s another mega-mistake: Fly Fridays and Sundays – but do that only if you want to overpay for airfare.

Otherwise, fly in the middle of the week – Tuesdays and Wednesdays, plus Saturdays, too. That’s the way to save.

And why not save every time you shop?

More from Rick Seaney:

Five Steps to Avoid Overpaying for Airline Tickets


Updated: December 17, 2014