Tricks for finding airline travel promo codes
Where to find the codes
- Airline Web sites: You might have to join the airline’s frequent-flyer program, and you might have to hunt—code deals could be under a different name. At United’s site, for example, you have to click “Special deals” under the “Planning & booking” tab.
- Airfarewatchdog: It’s the single best code source.
- FareCompare.com: (deals.farecompare.com/airline-promotion-codes). Click on “Real-time email alerts” or follow the deals on Twitter or Facebook.
- Southwest’s Ding service: This downloadable app appears on your desktop and dings to alert you to Southwest deals.
- American’s DealFinder service: This downloadable tool (not available for Macs) creates a profile for you and provides personalized offers based on your travel interests.
- Travel search engines: Click on “Private Sale” at Kayak for “limited inventory” sales. (You won’t find those deals at sites like Expedia and Orbitz.)
- TIP - Do a Web Search: If you can’t find codes on the site, try doing a Web search with the airline’s name and the term “promo codes.”
- TIP - Use Social Media: Certain promo alerts can be sent to you via e-mail, RSS feeds, Twitter, Jaiku, and Facebook. Most of the recent growth in promo codes has come from these channels.
Is there a catch?
- Flooded e-mail inbox: For every deal that interests you, you could receive several that don’t.
- Short shelf life: Promotions run out quickly, so the “you snooze, you lose” rule applies.
- Promo fares tailored to very specific routes: Some of the deals may also only apply to “qualifying flights,” so read the fine print.
- Airlines matching promo fares: The best bargains still require comparison shopping.
- Expiration dates: Some listings you’ll find online might be expired already.
MORE INFO FOR FINDING CHEAP TRAVEL FLIGHTS
Conversely, it pays to purchase perhaps a day or two in advance of a trip, as well. At that point, air carriers receive confirmation from passengers for a particular flight. During that last-minute window, the airline gets an idea of how many seats may be empty, and works to sell those openings. After all, empty seats are money-wasters. Last-minute bookings go for cheap rates. For example, a seat to Orlando, FL from New York City departing in two days is $89 on AirTran, compared to about $50 more a week before.
If you are able to travel at any time within a 24-hour window, there is the possibility that you may save some cash. Travel expert Michael Bluejay suggests flexible dates as his number one money-saver, citing a $444 fare that went down to $333 with a simple 24-hour time change on the departing day.
Drop Your Airport Loyalty
If possible, spend the extra time to drive to the smaller municipal airport or neighboring major hub. It is possible to save a good percentage on the ticket price by leaving and arriving at alternate locations. Keep in mind that certain cities lie in better spots on a particular route, and that airlines will charge accordingly. For instance, a ticket to Orlando, FL from Newark, NJ costs more than one from either John F. Kennedy International Airport or LaGuardia Airport in New York. There is a $20 potential savings for an additional hour's drive.
Check the Small Carriers
Many travelers choose to stick with the majors--United, Continental, and American--when it is just as safe and easy to book with a smaller discount carrier. Airlines like AirTran, Southwest and JetBlue deliver excellent service, have newer planes and are just as nice of an experience as the big boys for a lower price. To find fares for bargain carriers, check travel discount sites like Expedia or visit their official websites to book.
Make that AAA membership work for you, or utilize a college ID for something other than paying for dinner. Many airlines and sites offer a reduced price for StudentAdvantage, AAA, AARP and military personnel. Another discount option is online coupon codes. Often, these don't apply to flights, but there are rare occurrences when they do. Check sites like RetailMeNot to find the latest deals and coupons.