If flying seems to only be getting more expensive, it’s time you started playing the game. The following are some secrets that could get you cheaper tickets, free upgrades and more.
1. Redeem your miles way in advance
- Airlines release their booking schedules a whopping 330 days in advance.
- If you want to use your frequent-flier miles during a peak travel time — say, Christmas — you should start dialing up those airlines on Valentine’s Day.
2. Mix and match airports
- It’s sometimes cheaper to take a return flight to a different airport than the one you flew out of.
- Search for a return flight to a different airport in the region, such as Billy Bishop in Toronto.
- You’d be surprised to find that it’s cheaper to fly back to a different airport than the one you took off from.
3. Get a first-class ticket on the cheap
- Airlines don’t exactly promote this fact, but it’s possible to book a business-class or first-class ticket for the same price as a regular (not discount) coach seat.
- They’re called Q-up, Y-up or Z-up fares, and they all amount to first-class upgrades of coach fares.
- The fares were created by airlines to help business travellers, many of whom work for companies that don’t allow them to buy first-class tickets.
4. Upgrade your flight experience
- If you’re willing to spend a little extra money, it’s worth asking the agent to “split the difference” on the price of the first-class ticket.
- If first class isn’t booked, agents have some discretion when it comes to moving people into first class.
- Some airlines also let you use your frequent-flier miles to “purchase” an upgrade.
5. Change your ticket penalty-free
- The fees you’re charged when you have to change your airline ticket are negotiable.
- When changing the ticket, simply ask the agent if it’s possible the fees can be waived. The agent’s first response will usually be “No.”
- Ask to speak to the supervisor, and once you do, make your story a good one. Ask, be nice, and you might just get those tacked-on fees waived.
- It doesn’t cost them anything to do this for you. And airlines can stand to make even more money if you change your ticket. Sometimes, they can sell your seat for more than you paid.
If you know what to look for, air travel can be a lot less expensive and even a little more enjoyable. Just be sure to ask. After all, the worst they can say is “No.”