Cheap and Quick Air Travel Tips in US

| March 24, 2010

Problem Statement:

My sister-in-law is having her first kid at the end of May/beginning of June. She lives in Seattle, and we live in Atlanta, and it’s important to the family that we’re there as soon as there’s a sign she’s really going to have the kid. So, any advice on finding a decently priced ticket when we get that call? I’m used to using kayak, farecast, etc for planning trips, but only once have I bought a ticket for somewhere and left immediately.

Possible Solutions:

1. By Wcalvert
This is the hardest type of air ticket to buy for. It depends on two things: How much heads up you have and if those flights still have lots of available seats. If you don’t have 10 days worth of heads up, then you aren’t going to get any sort of real discount fare. Kiss anything under $500/person goodbye. It sounds like you are going to get boned no matter what.

To save the most amount of cash, you are going to need to be willing to drive. I did a search for Atl -> Sea for tomorrow through Friday, and the cheapest fare on Kayak is $988 on US Air (with the return in first class) or $1256 on Delta non-stop. However, if you were willing to drive to Asheville, the Delta fare is $896 with taxes, and you stop in Atlanta! Do a one-way car rental to Asheville (which can get pricey), do not check bags and ditch the last Atl to Asheville segment. This is against the rules, but if you do it once, they probably won’t notice.

Birmingham is $774 w/ tax on United, but connects through Charlotte for a savings of $428 for two people minus the cost of driving. If you get a red-eye and want to leave earlier, then most carriers charge a $50 stand by fee. You can stand by for an earlier flight, and you pay $50/person if you get on it. You obviously only have to pay if you are successful. This works well in hubs like Atlanta. A lot of people like flexible fares, so they can cancel at any time, but I checked and they are well over $1000/person for atl to sea. Last minute air travel is always going to be painful unless you get super lucky 🙁

2. By Nicktheawesome and Assisted by Wcalvert
Hotwire and Travelocity! Check them, its worth your time. Travelocity has flexible date search, that may cheapen your fare. Like another poster said, try and buy with as much time as you can. If your sister-in-law is having the baby end of May, you could always aim for end of May and buy your ticket now.

Wcalvert: I initially disagreed with you, but math prevails! The short story is that you are gambling a $150 change fee by guessing the right flight ahead of time.

You could further hedge your bet by buying two tickets for different 4 day periods, but you are ensuring you won’t get the best case scenario of only spending $670 total. Ran all of the maths. This is assuming a mostly guaranteed 14 day window. Adding to this window does bad things to the math, heh.

If you wait until the last second and do nothing you would more than likely pay $1700. If you guess two tickets at the same time your best case scenario is $670 with a 28.57% chance of success. However, there is a 71.43% chance of being wrong and having to pay $2000 total ($670 ahead of time, $300 change fees, $1030 in additional fare) for a “net” cost of $1620 if it’s run an infinite number of times. If you hedge your guess and buy two individual tickets at different 4 day periods your best case scenario is $1335 with a 73% chance of you being right. There is a 27% chance of you being wrong and paying $2000 total. “net” cost would be $1,516.

3. By Deserted
If you’re under 22, try Airtran’s standby program. That’ll at least get you to San Francisco for $99 one way on no notice. Maybe then you could go on Southwest or one of the many commuter flights from SF to Seattle.

4. By Rajulkabir
It is common in Northern Europe to have last-minute ticket booths at the airport; you can rock up with your luggage and a hundred euros and see where the winds will take you. Unfortunately this does not happen in Atlanta. No help, I know.

5. By Thoughtful
Standby
Standby
and How to Fly Standby

6. By Janie42156
Find a friend who works for the airline. Standby tickets are a hassle, but cheap and an easy way to get from point A to B. Consider commuting from/to far-away airports. Seattle to Dallas flights are booked solid, while Vancouver to Dallas are practically empty. It’s a similar situation with Portland to Dallas, too. Currently you’re fighting with Spring Break traffic, so get used to flights being full for the next few weeks. Stay away from weekends. Waiting for kids to be born sucks. They can come early, late, or just on time and it is probably never enough time to book a flight unless you plan on staying for a month or two around the due-date to cover all your bases.

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Category: North America

Comments (13)

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  1. miramica says:

    Nice site!..

  2. supra says:

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  3. hey,you have posted such a effectful article that it will certainly help me

  4. Some very useful tips here that i think will work for me. thanks

  5. Thanks for the wonderful information..I really like your post..The information is very informative for me as I am a frequent traveler and need to travel a lot and many times miss many important things..After reading your post I am clear what to do..

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