The no-frills airline, launched by Southwest in the 1980s, is no longer a U.S. phenomena. Low cost carriers are popping up around the world. They are taking over domestic and international routes throughout Europe and Asia and select routes in South America, Africa and the Middle East. A few even operate intercontinental flights. And many are profitable.
Yet there is a flip side to cheap tickets. Travelers can spend a significant amount of time scouring the web for the best deal. Not all countries have a low cost carrier and not all airports are serviced by a discount airline. Many low-fare companies cannot be booked through on-line agencies or consolidators, such as TripVisa Cheap Flights, Expedia, Orbitz and Lastminute. Promotional offers are usually limited and expire on a daily if not hourly basis. And when you finally find a flight, it is difficult to compare the offering.
The following tips will reduce your search time and prepare you for any additional travel time.
- Determine which carriers service the route you wish to fly. Many airport web sites include a route map as well as a list of carriers. Alternatives will only become apparent if you check the web site of both airports, arrival and departure.
- If you are traveling abroad or within a foreign country or continent, identify local on-line agencies and consolidators of discount airfares.
- Low cost carriers often use secondary airports. Verify distance and ground transportation before you book. Most low-fare carriers and many consolidators provide such information on their web sites.
- Many low-fare carriers offer point-to-point service. It may not be possible to check-in for a second flight at a transit desk. Thus you may need to build-in time between flights to accommodate any passport formalities, claim your luggage and check-in for the second leg of your journey.
- Security precautions introduced by major credit card companies may limit your ability to book flights on foreign web sites.
Getting the best deal
- Initiate your search with on-line agencies and consolidators.
- Subscribe to the airline and to the consolidator’s newsletter.
- Utilize services that enable you to set a price, such as the Orbitz “Deal Detector”. Orbitz will send an email if fares on the route you select drop to the price level you set. The service is available for free.
- Use the consolidator as a tool. Book directly with airline. This may reduce the service charge without affecting the fare.
- Low cost fares are often quoted on a one-way basis.
- Taxes, handling fees and other surcharges are not always included in the initial price. Click through to the final page to effectively compare cost.
- Airfare may be quoted in the airline or consolidator’s local currency only. Converting fares to a single currency will facilitate comparison.
Before you depart
- Pack a lunch or a snack and drinks for all. Food and drinks are no longer included in the price of the ticket!
- Arrive at the airport early if you want to sit next to your companion and the kids. Seating is likely to be open and boarding is oftentimes based on the order in which passengers’ check-in.