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Home > Personal Finance > How To Buy A Cheap Airline Ticket

How To Buy A Cheap Airline Ticket

There’s a lot of sites out there that help you buy airline tickets. Buying an airline ticket can sometimes seem like game of cat and mouse. Behind the marketplace there is a system that is attempting to match supply and demand, by selling tickets for the highest price the consumer is willing to pay.

The seller (the airlines) have the power when it comes to selling “normal” tickets, such as those planned weeks or months in advance. As the schedule tightens, the pricing power of the airline increases because fewer seats are available which causes the remaining demand to pay more.

Then something happens within a week of a flight: the airlines get desperate!

Unfortunately for the consumer these cheap deals are invisible to the main aggregators (such as cheaptickets.com, travelocity.com and expedia.com). These aggregators offer the ability to match your flight with car rentals as well as hotels. However, they offer the ability to get good prices only on tickets outside that last or two week before the flight. The major airlines have controlled these flights so that they are not available at the major flight deal aggregators.

In order to get these cheap deals, you need to go to the airlines directly. I’ve put together some info here for most of the major airlines.

The first thing to do to get cheap flights is to determine which airlines serve your airport. You have a better shot at getting cheap flights if you go to the airline that has a major “hub” at your local airport.

Here’s a list of the major hubs for some of the major airlines:

  • Charlotte/Douglas International Airport – US Airways
  • Washington Dulles International Airport – United Airlines
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – American Airlines
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – Delta Air Lines
  • Salt Lake City International Airport – Delta Air Lines
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport – Delta Air Lines
  • Memphis International Airport – Delta Air Lines
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport – Delta Air Lines
  • Newark Liberty International Airport – Continental Airlines
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Continental Airlines
  • Philadelphia International Airport – US Airways

How It Works

The details may differ slightly, but these deals pretty much work the same way:

  • On Monday or Tuesday, the cheap deals are posted by the airline.
  • Buy the tickets up to that Friday or Saturday.
  • Take off on that Saturday.
  • Return flight is Monday-Wednesday of the next week.

To give you an idea of the savings involved here, I bought a Newark (EWR) to Knoxville (TYS) direct round trip flight using continental.com Specials for $130. A similar flight booked, say two weeks in advance, would cost about $650!

Where To Go

Here are the details for these major airlines.

Continental Airlines:

Flights are available for the current week only, Domestic flights only.

PURCHASE: By Friday
DEPART: Saturday
RETURN: Monday or Tuesday

Go to the Specials Here.

Sign up to Get Specials Mailed Each Week Here.

US Airways:

e-Saver Flights are available for the current week only, Domestic/International flights (rules for Domestic flights are given below).

PURCHASE: By Saturday
DEPART: Saturday
RETURN: Monday or Tuesday

Go to Domestic/International Specials Here.

Sign up To Get Specials Mailed Each Week Here

American Airlines:

Net SAAver Flights are available for the current week as well as two weeks in advance. Domestic/International flights (rules for Domestic flights are given below).

PURCHASE: By Friday
DEPART: Friday or Saturday
RETURN: Monday or Tuesday

Go to This Week’s Domestic Specials Here.

Go to Next Week’s Domestic Specials Here.

Go to This Week’s International Specials

Sign up To Get Specials Mailed Each Week Here

Delta Airlines:

Flights are available for the current week only, Domestic flights only.

PURCHASE: By Friday
DEPART: Saturday
RETURN: Monday or Tuesday

Go to the Specials Here.

Sign up to Get Specials Mailed Each Week Here.

United Airlines:

Flights are available for the current week only, Domestic flights only.

PURCHASE: By Friday
DEPART: Saturday
RETURN: Monday or Tuesday

Go to the Specials Here.

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