What's the best way to really get the lowest air fare for a trip?

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Answered by: Jessica, An Expert in the Air Travel - General Category
Air travel has become more and more common over the years as people take advantage of the ability to go anywhere in the world in just a few hours. The gradual decrease in the costs of flying has encouraged people to use airlines for their leisure travel, as well as business. In the current economic times, however, people want to save as much money as possible when they travel, especially for leisure travel. There are numerous tools on the internet to assist people with finding the lowest air fare, including travel sites that compare airline rates and discounted air fares. The problem is that most people do not know whether or not the information provided by these specialized websites is accurate.



The answer to this question is not as simple as it might seem at first. There are several factors that a consumer needs to take into account when shopping for the lowest air fare. The origin and destination, how long a person plans on staying, and how far in advance the reservations are being made are all factors that can affect the cost of the trip. Occasionally, the number of people traveling and their ages can also make a difference. Websites are set up to ask questions about these issues, so that the answers can be calculated into the airfare, but they don't explain how modifying the answers can adjust the cost of the flights. Phone reservations agents are trained to offer and explain the available options, but only if the customer objects to the price quoted when the most basic information is entered into the system.

An experienced travel agent with a reliable company can offer expert advice and assistance, but there is a charge for such service, increasing the overall cost of the trip. There are websites that advertise highly discounted air fares, but they are not very clear on the restrictions imposed on such low cost airfare, and the customer can end up paying a lot more than they would have if they had just purchased a slightly higher priced ticket. Most airfare that is extremely low cost does not allow any voluntary changes, regardless of the circumstances, so if you need to make a last-minute change, you would need to buy an entirely new ticket at the full, undiscounted price. Buying a slightly higher-priced ticket gives you the option to make changes, with applicable fees.



Travel websites also charge a nominal processing fee, slightly increasing the price of the tickets, and so do airline phone representatives if you book your flight with them. Another aspect of discounted travel websites is that the price quoted when comparing airlines is not necessarily the price that is actually available. Their pricing is only updated periodically, so a flight might have sold out of that fare but still show as available. It is only when you attempt to purchase the ticket that you are advised that the price has increased. With airline phone agents, there is no cost to make a reservation and hold the flights for twenty-four hours; the fee is charged only if you actually purchase the ticket. The prices they quote are also real-time fares and, if you make a reservation, you are under no obligation to actually purchase the ticket, but that price is locked in for those twenty-four hours.

So, what's the best way to find the lowest air fare? Highly discounted travel websites will give you the absolute lowest fare, but you cannot make any changes to your days or times, for any reason. Other travel websites will give you a comparison of the fares for the airlines that fly the route you are interested in, as well as telling you how many stops you would need to make and the length of the trip, but the price they quote may not be available and they charge a fee on top of the cost of the flights. A phone reservations agent can tell you what options there are that might lower the price, such as traveling a day earlier or later or discounts for seniors or children that might be available. The phone agent can also lock in a quoted price for twenty-four hours while you compare prices. The best place to actually purchase the ticket for the lowest air fare, though, is on the actual airline's website.

Travel websites can tell you which airlines fly the route you are interested in and give you an idea of what the fares might be. Phone agents and travel agents can give you advice on how you might be able to lower the cost of your trip and what restrictions apply to your ticket, but there is an extra charge for purchasing the tickets through any of these avenues.

The official website of the airline that you want to travel on does not normally have any extra ticketing fees. Their prices are in real-time availability, and they usually show you all of their available flights, so that you can see any pricing difference that there might be between a non-stop flight option and a connecting flight. They can also offer the option to search nearby airports and a few days earlier or later, to see if that would lower your air fare and they guarantee that the price quoted on the official site is the lowest available online, other than the high discounts that have no flexibility. You can also take advantage of other features, such as online check-in and selecting your specific seat assignment.

Discount travel websites and phone reservations agents are great tools to help you plan your trip, but the best place to purchase your tickets for the lowest air fare is on the website of the airline that you plan on traveling with.

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