How Do I Buy Airline Tickets
All search engines have inflated flight costs as part of taking a cut from the airlines. Some search engines (e.g. Expedia) consistently inflate much higher than others (listed below). It pays to familiarise yourself with sites that offer the best prices.
how do i buy airline tickets
Most budget airlines will now appear in the broad search engines we are recommending (but NOT Southwest). If you want to be 100% sure though, you can do an additional search for regional budget airlines (we've listed as many we know of further below).
You can sign up for an airline rewards card that earns points with a particular airline, or a more general travel rewards card that lets you redeem points across a variety of airlines. As a beginner card, we recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You can earn up to 60,000 in bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after your account opening. That's worth $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and more than enough for an international flight. And since it includes trip cancelation insurance, car rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage insurance, and no foreign transaction fees, it's the perfect all-rounder travel credit card. You can compare this card with other top credit cards.
Below is a comprehensive list of budget airlines around the globe. Red indicates true budget airlines while blue implies the cheapest companies available where budget airlines don't exist or aren't plentiful.
If you're heading to any of these parts of the globe, start stalking these airlines. Use Twitter, Facebook or regularly check budget airline webpages to keep you in touch with specials before they sell out. Air Asia, Jetstar, Tiger Air and Ryanair are especially good at having regular deals.
Many of these budget airlines have their own airline rewards credit cards, and most of them offer a major signup points bonus. For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card from Chase offers Companion Pass (every time you fly, your friend flies too) and 50,000 bonus points after hitting the minimum spend of $1,000 in the first 3 months. However, a general travel rewards credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the best option for most people, as you have the flexibility to redeem your points towards a wide variety of airlines and hotels. You'll receive 60,000 bonus points worth $750 through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of your account opening, and the card features no foreign transaction fees. Compare this card to other travel cards here.
If you're flying somewhere that involves a transfer, say from Canada to Australia which typically involves Canada to LA, then LA to Australia, consider that it may be cheaper to book these two legs separately on your own by adding another destination to your trip. It should go without saying that in doing this, you should not book tight layovers. I repeat: do not book layovers that are hours apart! This approach is for those who want to create an additional destination of a few days or more, before catching their next flight. The one exception is when booking with Kiwi.com, who offer their own guarantee on making connecting flights even when not with the same partner airlines.
First, do your research: are there budget airlines unique to the country you're flying out of and where you're headed to? Booking with a budget Australian airline (Jetstar) from Sydney to Honolulu, then an American one from Honolulu to Montreal saved us over $400 each when flying back from Australia to Canada earlier this year. This allowed us to create a thrifty five-day stopover in Hawaii on our way back, which was less exhausting and a lot cheaper! Kiwi.com and Skyscanner are both great search engine for revealing cheaper routes like this that involve multiple airlines.
Where Kiwi.com really shines is the way in which it mixes and matches airlines in order to find the cheapest price. For example, maybe you want to go to Rome, Italy from Washington, USA. A typical flight search engine will only suggest routes coming from a single airline and its partners. An example search on Expedia shows the cheapest route as $631.20 USD via TAP Portugal.
Kiwi.com, on the other hand, will mix and match airlines (including budget airlines) in order to find you the very cheapest route. For long-haul flights especially, this can make a huge difference. The same search on Kiwi.com returns a route at $459.80 USD via JetBlue, Norwegian Air, and Vueling. That's a savings of $171.40 USD, and the travel time is even shorter!
Typically, booking a whole trip with different airlines would be risky. For example, let's say your first flight with JetBlue was delayed, and you missed your connecting flight with Norwegian Air. Because the airlines have no association with each other, Norwegian Air has no obligation to reschedule your flight for free, so you would just lose your money. Kiwi.com instead offers their own guarantee, which covers schedule changes, flight delays, and cancellations. As long as you contact Kiwi.com as soon as you're aware of the delay, they will provide you with an alternate connecting flight, or a full refund, at your discretion. We haven't used this guarantee ourselves, but it certainly sounds like an appealing way to take the risk out of a thrifty flight hack!
There is now a web search engine which finds hidden city tickets for you. It's called Skiplagged and was even sued by United Airlines who were angry about this debatable hack. We have never used the hidden city approach, but I know several who have, and they've scored some thrifty savings. Use at your own risk!
As a general rule, you will get better value on your flight tickets if you buy more at the same time, but only if they are with the same airline, or airlines in the same alliance (e.g. Star Alliance). For example, flying a return ticket from New York City to London with United Airlines will be cheaper than 2 one-way tickets.
Another way to bulk buy flights for less is with round the world tickets and regional passes. These are special tickets offered by airline alliances that let you go around the world, a continent, or a country at a discounted rate. To learn how to book these, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to round the world tickets.
All this said, sometimes a few separately booked flights with budget airlines is still cheaper than what partner airlines can offer. The only way to be sure is to use a site like Skyscanner, punch in your destinations, search as multi-city or return vs multiple one-way bookings, and compare yourself.
While the above search engines are great, they do not always include small airlines, especially in less popularly booked routes and/or in remote regions. If you're flying somewhere obscure, Google search and ask around if there exists a local airline. While in South America we learnt that the LADE Air in Argentina (run by the military) has cheap flights to Patagonia, which is of course not listed in mass search engines online.
When you do find small airlines, even if they are listed in a search engine results, it often pays to check the company site which may reveal exclusive online offers not found in a regular search engine. For example, when flying in Western Canada, I found that Hawk Air, a small and local company offers weekly deals on certain days. Be sure to double check!
Rarely ever do airline tickets get cheaper as your departure date approaches, especially if you need to fly on a certain date. Budget airlines typically offer low rates as a baseline price, and as these tickets sell, the remaining ones increase in cost. This is very typical in Europe and Australia. If you know when and where you're going, don't wait on an unknown sale. More often than not, your biggest savings come from booking far ahead when you can.
Before booking a flight, consider if the rate is cheaper if paid in another currency. Often budget airlines will make you pay in the currency of the country you're departing from, but this isn't always the case. An important note when doing this: make sure you're using a credit card that is free of foreign-transaction fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, otherwise your attempts to save money doing this will be lost! Our article on money matters for world travellers can help steer you in the right direction for the best credit cards for travel.
Do you have some sneaky techniques to save big on flights? Any budget airlines you see missing here? Share below to spread the thrifty love! And for more guides like this, like us on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter!
BEWARE!!! RYANAIR only if you are travelling with a toothbrush and nothing else! They will charge you for everything including hand held bags and checked luggage allowances, and their luggage allowances are smaller than international airlines. So a bag that you checked from NYC to Europe, will now cost you plenty to re check with ryan air.
We have saved tons of money flying Spirit airlines out of Detroit- my husband flew from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale round trip in Sept /14 for $221 total with one checked bag! AFrequent flyer can join their $9 club for more savings!
Many of these points are incorrect and verging on bad advice however the cookie advice is good.Use the web for local flights but always use a travel agent for long haul or complex routings.Remember also many specialist agents are not allowed to advertise their discount rates online and will usually undercut a customer buying direct from the airline.If buying any air product online always use a credit card for payment. 041b061a72