Common Misconceptions on Cheap Airfare

When it comes to cheap airline tickets, there are a ton of urban myths, misconceptions, conflicting reports, and outright falsehoods out there. These fallacies mislead folks into thinking that if they want to fly into New York on the cheap, they'll have to catch a 3 a.m. flight out of Peoria.Why do these myths persist? Because there are so many exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions when it comes to finding cheap airline tickets. You may get lucky and get a flight from Chicago to Phoenix for $179 one week, and the next week that same flight at the same time might cost you $439.

All major airlines feed their prices and seat inventories into four reservation systems, which are owned by the airlines. If the demand is high for certain routes, the prices remain high. If the seats are not selling, they will drop prices to fill those seats.

Needless to say, cheap airline tickets are constantly in flux and can change, literally, minute to minute. In an effort to simplify this very complex picture, here are facts about cheap airline tickets separated from fiction.

MYTH: Airline tickets bought well in advance are always cheaper.

FACT: This is true to a certain extent. If you book your flight weeks in advance, you can expect to save some money on cheap airline tickets. But, if you are diligent (and lucky), you can occasionally get a great deal at the last minute from airlines that are looking to fill up an under-booked flight. Remember, this is mainly a roulette move, meaning that waiting until the last minute may, depending on conditions, end up costing you a lot more.

MYTH: Flying with low-cost airlines equals discomfort and lousy service.

FACT: This used to be true, but as the smaller carriers increase in popularity and get better at controlling costs, you can often find a more pleasurable flying experience opting for low-cost airlines over the majors.

MYTH: It's better to book directly through the airlines to save money.

FACT: Sometimes they are cheaper and sometimes they are not. You can generally save money on cheap airline tickets by using airline tickets travel portals. You may also be able to score cheap airline tickets by checking with an airline shortly before takeoff. If an airline is desperate to fill up a flight, they may drop prices before takeoff to put people in those seats.

MYTH: Lowest price guarantees on cheap airline tickets!

FACT: Strictly an effort to prevent you from shopping around, many airlines, travel agents and travel sites guarantee you the lowest price for cheap airline tickets. Many times these guarantees are difficult to collect on because you would have to verify the prices elsewhere with screenshots of the price and timing, etc. Not to mention, many guarantees are for lower prices by midnight the same day you booked your airline tickets. Cut the hassle and find the lowest price on cheap airline tickets is by doing your own comparison shopping and being flexible about flight times.

MYTH: You need to stay over on a Saturday night to get the best deal.

FACT: No longer true. This is one of those arcane rules that airlines had in place to help ensure that flights in off-peak times would get filled. The ability to book flights on the Internet and fierce competition has caused the airlines to scrap a lot of these restrictions.

MYTH: Buying tickets at the last minute will get you a better deal.

FACT: Yet another urban legend that is only sometimes true. It all comes down to how desperate the airline is to fill seats on an under booked flight. For example, if it costs them $75,000 to fly that route and the plane is half-empty, they are going to scramble to fill those seats to keep from losing money on that flight.

MYTH: Late Wednesday night is the best time to buy cheap airline tickets.

FACT: Not true. This notion is based on the belief that the computer systems of the airlines release their reserved seats between midnight and 1 a.m. on Wednesday nights. Airlines release their unbooked seats every day at midnight so your chances of scoring a cheap airline ticket are not better on Wednesday than they are on any other day.

There are few absolutes for consistently finding cheap airline tickets. The strategy that worked for you a couple of times in September won't necessarily work again for you in December.

Your best bet for saving money on cheap airline tickets is doing your own research online for the best price for your flight right at that moment. If you are flexible about departure and arrival times, it will help you trim a few bucks off the tab, although serendipity may be as big a factor as anything else.

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