How to Get Cheap Flights
TWO HUNDRED YEARS ago the cost was seven years to a lifetime of servitude for average people making a one-way crossing of the Atlantic. Now it can be funded by a few days of waiting tables.
When booking through an agent, always specify you want the "lowest possible fare," as there may be specials which do not fall under "economy" or "APEX." Moreover, not every agent--even with the budget specialists listed below--will be equally competent or motivated to find the cheapest ticket. They may not know about a great deal the next cubicle has been selling all week, or the commission may not merit bothering much.
Likewise, buying a ticket on the Internet is not the same as getting the cheapest price. As with any travel agent, you may be offered the lowest price, an average price, or a test price. You still have to make comparisons and move boldly when a deal presents itself. A good strategy is to book the best-value, fully-refundable fare early, then continue looking for something better to pop up.
You may find an attractive price on the main leg, but a high one on the connect. Try reversing the search, or book one leg at a time. Allow at least three hours between flights for international departures/changeovers.
Often the best deals are offered directly by airline websites. In some cases you sign-up with the airline and they notify you via email of hugely-restricted but incredibly cheap specials a few days before the flight. These include American. United. Continental. Northwest. Southwest (the U.S. low-fare and efficiency leader), U.S. Airways. TWA. Delta. Alaska. Canadian. Carnival. and Cathay Pacific (which periodically auctions--with minimum bid--several hundred seats on New York and Los Angeles to Hong Kong runs.)
Large Internet Travel Sites
All listings are the result of experience, general budget travel knowledge, or research. The only contract is between author and reader. travelocity.com The biggest, from AMR, the parent of SABRE and American Airlines. expedia.com Microsoft's successful (in the black) travel site. priceline.com A reverse-auction website where you decide how much you're willing to pay, then software searches for an airline willing to release a seat for that amount. You choose the date but not the time, if an airline agrees your credit card is billed, and you are permitted only one bid per route. While Priceline recommends bidding at the lowest published fare for the route, some success is reported at thirty percent below. previewtravel.com Closely linked with AOL, owned by Travelocity. itn.net The Palo Alto engine behind many "front" travel agencies such as CNN. ITN works with local travel agents. americanexpress.com/travel American Express travel agency. travelweb.com From Dallas-based Pegasus Systems. hotwire.com Hotwire is an airline, hotel, and rental car partnership discounting oversupply (including 500,000 daily seats) directly to consumers. Buyers do not know airline names, flight times, or hotel locations until after purchase, and refunds or changes are not permitted. orbitz.com An airline alliance designed to bypass traditional reservation networks and return a few extra percent of revenue to the companies flying the airplanes. It provides comprehensive route and fare information, and has attracted a million-dollar CEO and Justice Department interest.
Student and Budget Specialists
While a few tickets require student or youth status, most do not. The following serve customers requiring cheap fares, and have access to discounted tickets. To be certain of any true low-market price you must make at least a few inquiries. (See Bargaining in Chapter 8.)
sta-travel.com Formerly Student Travel Australia, and certainly partly responsible for the legions of Aussies carousing the world. STA has nearly 200 offices in ten countries, including twenty in the States. Main U.S. office is
10 Downing St. New York, NY 10014. tel. 212-627-3111. National service desk 800-777-0112. ciee.org Council Travel. Has several dozen offices in the U.S. specializing in student and budget travel. Operates charter flights to Europe in the summer (Council Charter tel. 800-800-8222). Main office is 205 E. 42 St. New York, NY 10017. tel. 212-661-1414 or 212-661-0311. Sells ISIC cards, Eurail passes, and the most excellent Work, Study, and Travel Abroad: The Whole World Handbook. travelcuts.com Canadian Universities Travel Service. Has twenty offices in Canada and one in London. Main office is at 187 College St. Toronto, Ontario M5T1P7. tel. 416-979-2406. acotra.com Belgium-based student travel organization with good connections to Africa. ACOTRA World USA, 29777 Telegraph Road, Suite 2432, Southfield, Michigan 48034 and ACOTRA World Ltd. rue de la Madeleine 51, 100 Brussels, Belgium tel. 32.2.512.70.79 fax 32.512.39.74
Domestic Bucket Shops
Air Brokers International 323 Geary, Suite 411, San Francisco, CA 94102 tel. 800-883-3273 fax: 415-397-4767. Sells around-the-world and circle-Pacific tickets. airbrokers.com Air Hitch 2790 Broadway, Suite 100, New York, NY 10025 tel. 212-864-2000 or 800-326-2009. Air Hitch provides one-way rides across the Atlantic for $169 from the East Coast, $269 from the West Coast, and $229 from in-between. You send the money, a five-day "window" when you would like to leave, and your top three destinations in Europe. While they don't guarantee the destination, according to AirHitch 95% fly within their date range. Several travelers have indicated a regular reserved seat for a few bucks more is less risky and a superior value. Cheap Tickets, Inc. 1247 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10021 tel. 212-570-1179 Also has offices in L.A. San Francisco, and Honolulu. National tel. is 800-377-1000 (espaсol: 800-991-6199) and fax 800-454-2555. Formerly a U.S. domestic specialist, Cheap Tickets now sells international tickets. cheaptickets.com Cut Throat Travel Outlet 731 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 tel. 800-642-TRIP (California only) and 415-989-TRIP. A clever agent from this company saved me $150 on a one-way by having it issued from Dubai. Global Discount Travel Services 980 Kelly Johnson Drive, Clark County, NV 89119 888-777-2222. Regularly advertises in the The New York Times. lowestfare.com High Adventure Travel San Francisco, 800-350-0636. Advertises around-the-world, circle-Pacific, and multi-continent fares in the New York Times. highadv.com TicketPlanet 800-799-8888 and fax 415-288-9839. Advertises around-the-world and circle-Pacific fares in the The New York Times. ticketplanet.com Sunco Travel International 690 Market Street, #1501, San Francisco, CA 94104 tel. 800-989-6017 or 415-291-9960. More around-the-world tickets. TRAVAC 989 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10018 tel. 800-TRAV-800 or 212-563-3303. Travac specializes in tickets to Europe on scheduled airlines and charters. Up & Away Travel 347 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 212-889-2345. Claims lowest prices in town. yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Companies/Travel/Agents/ A list of hundreds of travel agencies.
Ethnic Bucket Shops
Foreign airlines usually sell the bulk of their discounted tickets to bucket shops in ethnic neighborhoods which mostly serve their own nationality. A travel agency in Koreatown in Los Angeles may have good deals on Korea Air to Seoul. Chinatown in San Francisco has a dozen competitive travel agencies with specials to all over Asia.
Sometimes these ethnic agencies only advertise in local ethnic-language newspapers, and they may not be able to speak clear English over the phone, but they should be considered if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Foreign Bucket Shops
If you become a one-way flier you will probably use bucket shops in other countries. Competitive bucket shops are found in London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Delhi, Bombay, Bangkok, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Sydney, and many other cities.
Since unscrupulous dealers exist, you must be careful. Favor shops recommended by your guidebook, that are busy, or at least have an air of history.