Much of the time getting a good airfare is simply a matter of luck. Other times a bit of research and creativity is required. I’m certainly no expert on the topic but I’ve enjoyed using various techniques to try to get a cheaper airfare. Here are a few that I have used and a few that I haven’t. Maybe one of these might be helpful when booking your next flight.
Otherwise known as “multi-city” tickets, this is flying into one city and out of another, or flying out of one city and back to another. A “double open-jaw” is when all 4 departure and arrival cities are different. This kind of ticket can often not only save money but make a lot of sense for your itinerary. Once, we discovered it was oddly cheaper to book a specific Icelandair flight that included an Air Canada segment from Moncton to Halifax at the beginning. Another great Icelandair fare was into Copenhagen and out of Stockholm.
Separate One-Way Tickets
It’s worth checking the one-way ticket cost before booking a round-trip. The downside to this method is if you have to cancel you are stuck with two cancellation or change fees. I once booked a one-way to Florida on United and a one-way back on WestJet that made for a cheaper total fare with the added bonus of a non-stop flight home.
What if you discover a fantastic fare but it’s not to the city you want to visit. Or what if there’s a super low fare out of Montreal or Boston to your chosen destination and nothing remotely as cheap out of the Maritimes. If you can fit in the additional flights such that it still constitutes a great deal, booking one of these can be a good move. The crucial factor to remember is that you’re not protected on the next flight if the first one gets delayed. Therefore, you need to build in a cushion of time to allow for delays. The savings from booking flights like this has to be enough to outweigh the added risk. As discussed below, this can also be an opportunity to add an extra destination to your trip, if time allows.
If you’d like to include an additional destination in your trip, it’s sometimes possible to score a great deal if you get creative in your planning and search for deals. A few years ago, a friend and I found a very low fare Los Angeles to London, Paris to Halifax at a time when airfares to Europe were quite high. We used Aeroplan miles for Halifax to San Diego for a few days and it made for a very enjoyable and varied trip. Here’s an example where you can turn one trip into two. Say you’d like to spend a week in Portugal and a few days in New York and you don’t mind doing them both in one trip.
Halifax to Lisbon on sample dates Nov. 30 – Dec. 8 is $868.
Halifax to Lisbon, Lisbon to New York is $565 bookable on a few different OTAs on those dates.
One-way New York to Halifax Dec. 11 is $239 as of today.
So, total trip cost is $804.
Icelandair tickets include a nice benefit that allows for a stopover in Iceland of up to 7 days. This can add an interesting component to your trip. For example, airfare Halifax to Paris Sept. 29 – Oct. 10 is $561. If instead you wish to spend 5 nights in Paris and 5 nights in Iceland, the fare comes to $570. (Note that Icelandair flies out of both Charles de Gaulle and Orly so it’s important to check both for lowest price).
These are tricky. Sometimes airlines honour error fares and sometimes they don’t. Anytime you book a fare that is so low it could be a mistake, hold off on making any other trip arrangements until you know for sure the fare will be honoured. My family once booked an unusually low fare that was around for a very short time. When the fare went up, the increase was equivalent to the exact amount of the fuel surcharge. Clearly it was a mistake but there were no issues with our tickets. Something similar happened once when booking Air Miles tickets. The taxes and fees seemed unusually low for the flights we were booking. The website soon went down for a while and when it came back up the taxes and fees were in the normal range again.
Flying out of the USA
Back when the dollar was at par or above, it was more common to hear of people driving to Maine to catch cheaper U.S. flights. If you live relatively close to the border it’s still worth checking the fares out out of Bangor and Portland. If the fare is significantly lower the savings can really add up if you’re flying with a family. We flew Allegiant out of Bangor once and it was fine. For flights to Europe, Boston is quite a drive but budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle is an option there. As with all budget airlines, watch out for the various added costs.
This is getting into more complicated territory. Say you want to visit City A and then City B a few months later. Instead of booking two return tickets, you book one ticket into City A but returning from City B on the next trip, and another departing from City A and returning to City B later. So one ticket is inside the other so to speak. Sometimes this can result in significant savings although I have no direct experience with it. Perhaps at some point I’ll take a stab at finding such a flight arrangement.
Hidden City Ticketing
This strategy carries with it some risk. You book a cheap one way but get off at the connecting city. Remember, once you skip a segment the rest of your ticket is cancelled so this doesn’t work with a return ticket if you’re doing it on the outbound portion. Airlines frown on this activity. And what if your flight gets changed to a non-stop or your connecting city is changed? Then you’d have some explaining to do.
I guess that’s all I can think of on the topic of airfare hunting. Good luck.