Many travelers believe that they can save money by purchasing international flight tickets in advance.
This is a half-truth. Fly one day early, and you’ll pay the same price as if you bought your ticket at the last minute.
But there are other options:
* Arrive at the airport three hours before your flight. You won’t be able to check any bags, but you can shop for souvenirs and grab a bite to eat or catch a movie or two.
* Arrive two hours before your flight, have your luggage checked and wait for your gate to be called. That way you won’t have to deal with baggage claim and security checks, and you can use the time to explore the terminal.
* Get an advanced boarding pass from an airline credit card or frequent flier program (if yours doesn’t offer it, ask!). This will give you access to the lounge instead of waiting in line for security screening.
It’s hard to say whether these methods will work for everyone; some people do better with lines than others. But in general this advice holds true: if there’s a time when you don’t need to be somewhere—and if there’s a way you can avoid dealing with the hassle—it’s better than paying extra for
There’s a big difference between domestic and international tickets. Domestic tickets have a single origin, and a single destination. But international tickets are almost never one-way: they allow you to go anywhere in the world, as long as you start and end in the same country. They are very convenient: if you go on vacation, you don’t need to find another ticket before going. The price is often lower than buying two separate tickets, because it includes the taxes that would be charged if the flights had been bought separately.
But there are drawbacks. International airlines tend to charge more for international tickets than for domestic ones. There is also less competition among airlines that fly internationally; hence they can charge higher prices. And international flights are more likely to be delayed or canceled, which can make them more expensive.
There are ways to get around these problems. You can use an airline that flies only domestically or only internationally; or you can buy a package deal from an airline that flies both ways, at a discount over buying each flight separately. Or you can use a travel website such as Expedia or Orbitz to compare prices, availability and features; then choose the best deal by picking the carrier with the most features you want (and least of those you don’t), and
The price of international flight tickets varies a lot from place to place. The reason is that the airlines have to buy their seats in lots of different ways. In the United States, for example, the airline buys its tickets from travel agents, who act as middlemen between the airlines and the travel agencies that sell them.
The airline pays the travel agent about 50 cents for each seat it sells on a particular flight, plus a commission. The travel agent then passes on some of that money—say, a dollar—to the agency and keeps another dollar (plus some profit). The agency takes its commission and passes on some of that money—say, 50 cents—to the travel agent and keeps another dollar (plus some profit).
On top of that, there are government taxes on flight tickets: to fly domestically, you pay a federal excise tax; to fly internationally, you pay a federal sales tax plus a state tax; and if you’re traveling with children under 18, you may also owe an extra charge called “child-safety fees.” The total amount you end up paying may be $100 or more per ticket.
Since no one likes to pay such high prices for airfares, why does anyone buy them? It’s because people don’t know about
If you are flying internationally, you should know about these alternatives.
You can find tickets that cost as little as $100 round-trip, but they usually require a stopover of at least three hours.
You can save much more money if you search for round-trip tickets that don’t have an international connection in each direction. The cheapest option is to buy two one-way tickets and use the same ticket for the return trip.
Another way to save is to book flights from one city to another within the U.S., and then fly on connecting flights with a third airline that flies internationally. For example, you could travel on United Airlines from Chicago to New York and on Continental Airlines from New York to Dublin. If you book this way, you will pay even less than if you fly directly between New York and Dublin, because Continental charges less to fly internationally than United does.
To get to the other side of the world, you have to travel through many countries. The farther you travel, the more fuel you burn, and the more money you spend on ticket prices.
In 2007, before airfares became so expensive, I looked for tickets for a round-the-world trip. I found a one-way flight from San Francisco to London for $1,270. That seemed like a big price. But when I started looking at round-trip fares from London to fly back to San Francisco, my jaw dropped: it cost $5,795!
That’s a lot of money. Even with my university salary that wasn’t really feasible. So I continued looking around for cheaper flightsback home. They were nowhere near as cheap as the one-way fare from London, but a couple of them were close enough that it made sense to buy them if I could get out of flying in and out of London twice. For example, there was a one-way flight from San Francisco to New York that cost $2,055, plus taxes; there was also an overnight ferry from LA to Honolulu that cost $700. I bought both flights and saved about 50 percent compared with my first round-the-world trip plan.
The best time to book a flight is months in advance. If you book early, you can usually get a better price. Plus, airlines are more likely to give you one-way flights than round-trip flights if they think it will save them money.
There are also some great tricks to find cheap airfare that you can use while booking. Some of these tricks may be obvious to people who have traveled internationally a lot, but they’re not always obvious to people who haven’t.
The cheapest way to go from New York to London is on an American Airlines flight, which costs $298 round-trip. That’s the cheapest round-trip price in the United States and Europe. But if you fly British Airways, which has a hub in Heathrow, your travel agent can get you a round-trip fare that’s only $266. And if you buy your ticket at the last minute, even more cheaply.
The key to those prices is that British Airways pays its employees so little that it can’t afford to pay for their flights: its planes are full of workers commuting from faraway cities, where they can make twice as much money. American Airlines pays its pilots only $30 an hour; it can’t afford to keep its planes full of them.
And that gap between what we’re willing to pay and what airlines are willing to pay persists all over the world. The most expensive class of seats on United Airlines is $1,092 round-trip. The cheapest is $626 round-trip. A flight on Southwest Airlines costs $612 round-trip; the same flight on Delta Air Lines costs only $455 round-trip; a flight on JetBlue costs $352; and a flight on Virgin America costs just $182.