Finding the best airfare is not easy. Fare rules, seasonality, taxes and surcharges can be confusing. Following are some tips on finding low airfares.
Book early - Making a reservation as soon as you know your travel dates increases your chance of finding a great deal. The best international fares often require reservations 30 days in advance. Some airlines even offer discounted (Early Bird) fares for the summer season, starting in January, and tickets have to be purchased by the end of March or April. If you get your act together early, you can save up to US $150 per ticket.
Stay over a Saturday night - Most low fares require that you stay over at least one Saturday night before your return flight (this is also called the Sunday Rule). However, some fares may only require you to stay a minimum of three or four days.
Try an earlier or later travel date - To get the lowest round-trip fare, the same class of service must be available on both, the departing and return flights selected. If the fare is sold out in either direction, you may end up with a higher price. If possible, consider flying on another date and use flexible date search options.
Did I mention you should make your reservation early? - Airlines sell only a limited number of seats at the lowest fares. When those seats sell out, the price goes up! When you find a price that’s right for your budget, take it.
Keep in mind that typically, the lowest-priced fares have many restrictions. These fares usually have penalties for refunds and changes. Most are non-refundable and do not allow any changes after the ticket is purchased. Also, in some cases, the cheapest fare means that you'll have a longer layover or additional stops. Following are some other factors to take into consideration when booking a flight.
Today, airlines are part of several alliances, code-sharing many routes. This is why some flight numbers carry the code of more than one airline. To find out the aircraft type or the configuration of your flight be sure to check for the operating carrier.
Number of transfers & travel time
The lowest fares may come with longer travel time and additional transfers. Always check for the total travel time, including the number of stops for your itinerary.
For Trans-Atlantic travel, most airlines allow two pieces (50lbls/23kg) of checked baggage free of charge. There are exceptions. Delta for example charges USD 50.00 for the second piece, so always check the airlines' checked baggage policy prior going to the airport.
Frequent flyer programs
If you collect air miles with any airline make sure to add your frequent flyer number to your reservation.
Ticket prices fluctuate according the seasonality. Generally there are three seasons. Low season, from January to end of March, and from November to mid December; Shoulder season, from April to the second half of May, and from September to mid or end of October; and High season, from the second half of May to end of August, and from mid December to January.
E-ticket vs. paper ticket
Today, most airlines offer the convenience of electronic tickets. Electronic ticketing makes the overall travel experience less stressful, as there is no need to worry about forgetting, losing or not receiving your paper ticket. However, if you wish to receive a paper ticket, you may choose so - just remember that airlines charge a fee for issuing a paper ticket.