Want a cheaper deal? Welcome to cheap airlines

Do you think getting a cheap airfare requires just calling your favorite airline (the one with the honey-roasted peanuts) and forking over your credit card number?

Do you think getting a cheap airfare requires just calling your favorite airline (the one with the honey-roasted peanuts) and forking over your credit card number? It is that easy, if you are traveling on someone else's dime. Getting the lowest airfare from Point A to Point B can be a ridiculously frustrating experience, especially if in mid-flight you discover your neighbor paid a third what you did. (Hell, how did that creature manage it?)

All major airlines feed their available seats and prices into four central reservation systems that are owned by various airlines. The systems are Apollo, Sabre, WorldSpan and Galileo. Prices changes are based on demand. If a certain flight is selling well, the price will increase. If another flight has no takers, the fare will drop until the airline gets some. As a result, fares and inventory are changing every minute.

So why is it so hard to keep track of the prices?

-Internet travel sites and travel agents use the central reservation systems which are updated periodically during the day, but not simultaneously, which explains why different searches may yield different results.

-The systems also may use different algorithms to search for the lowest fares, which subsequently provide varied fares.

-It is cheaper to fly on a weekday when fewer people are traveling. On working days the price rises together with the number of passengers.

-Airlines change their prices based on competition. If one airline one particular route drops its rates by 20%, chances are all airlines will drop their rates, so as not to give the discounter a competitive advantage.

-Fare differences can exist for the same route on different airlines. If one airline has the market share for a route, it may not need to lower fares to attract passengers.

-Airlines also divide seats on each flight into several price ranges and set aside a certain number of discounted tickets. Naturally, the lowest fares draw your attention to advertisements. Though, if you are slow to call those seats will be gone.

Because of all these factors it is essential always to be ready for changes. Regardless of whether you use the Internet or a travel agent, you will come up with a wide range of prices. The challenge is to know how to make the cheap fares yours.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when searching for a ticket:

-Start your search as early as possible (at least a month in advance) because many deals involve making your reservation at least 21 days before departure. But last minute tickets can sometimes be the cheapest. These are listed by individual airlines on their websites.

-Stay vague about your dates. That lets you know the best fare you could get so you can change your dates if price is the most important factor. Taking the "red-eye" flight can pay off for your wallet because no one wants to depart at 2 a.m. and arrive at 6 a.m.

-Airlines typically attach restrictions to discount fares, like a 7-, 14-, or 21-day advance purchase and/or a Saturday night stay. Use the same airline for both directions, since round trips are about the same as one-way tickets.

-Keep checking. It behooves airlines to have full planes, so they may add discount seats without warning.

-Ask about senior discounts or student discounts.

-Look into secondary airports outside the city or even in a nearby city that is less popular.

-Check smaller discount airlines that may not be included in the central reservation systems. They usually only have area-specific flights available but they are much cheaper than the big airlines.

-If you fly more than twice a year, the price of joining a travel club can easily make up for itself in the long run.

-Fridays and Mondays and the weekend are the most expensive times to fly. While Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days.

-Try a consolidator. A consolidator is an intermediary company that buys tickets at a discount directly from the airline.

There are many travel companies on the market these days. Each boasts a range of benefits. However, don't be tempted to simply book up the first seemingly cheap air flight deal that comes up. Do a little extra digging - you'll probably find several deals that are even better. What's more, you can book your cheap air flight online and make payment through secure online booking systems. Your ticket will then be delivered right to your door. By making this often substantial saving with a cheap air flight, you can splash out a little more on the journey itself and still travel in comfort and style.

If you are browsing the Internet for a cheap airline flight, you will often find that the travel companies can also provide you with discounted accommodation and car hire as well, thus saving you even more money. Also by booking direct over the Internet, you can make the saving yourself instead of passing it on to the travel agent. So, with a little research and some flexibility you could get your hands on a bargain with a cheap airline flight. You should always try a number of travel companies to compare prices. Putting in a little extra effort in to finding a cheap airline could save you a considerable amount of money.

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