Airfares Are Still Rising: How You Can Land a Bargain Ticket This Summer

Summer travel season is approaching, but the latest air fare data released by the Department of Transportation are likely to send a chill down the spines of people who are planning long-distance vacations. The average price of a domestic round-trip fare rose 8.4% to $337 in 2010. Prices spiked 5% in the fourth-quarter holiday season alone compared to 2009.

The economy may be continuing to pack on muscle, and more travelers are returning to the skies, but don't expect a break on plane tickets anytime soon. "People will find themselves having to budget more for airfare," Travelzoo (TZOO) senior editor Gabe Saglie told DailyFinance. "Prices are not coming down."

But Saglie has good news for the flexible and well-connected. Fares that have been discounted by 20% to 40% are available through social media and flash alerts, though many are for flights departing within three or four days of purchase. Letting the deal determine their destination on short notice is not for everybody, he admits, but it can be an adventure with savings as a bonus. "Airlines still will have empty seats and will still have the need to discount prices," he said.

The vacation-haven maven recommends deal hunters sign up for flash alerts from several airlines -- and, of course, from bargain-publishing sites such as Travelzoo. Just don't overdo it, or you'll be bombarded with emails, Tweets and texts, Saglie warned.

Also keep in mind this summer that your steal of a deal on paradise might be someone else's inferno. How about Phoenix or South Beach in July? "These are locations that plausibly could generate aggressive airfare bargains," he said.

And don't forget to observe a few other commandments of flying frugal: Surf the Web late on Tuesday afternoons for what are often the week's lowest prices -- it's not an urban myth. If you're short on time, go directly to deal-aggregators such as Kayak. You might also consult travel sites' best-of compilations for flights and complete vacation packages.

Play your cards right, and you could be flying for less than you imagined this summer, no matter what the Department of Transportation says.

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It continues to boggle my mind how a fully-depreciated (call that "old") 737 aircraft, fully loaded with fare, tax, fee and baggage-paying riders, having a pilot, co-pilot/navigator and three attendents can NOT earn a LOT of money??? And I don't care HOW expensive the gas is. Something is wrong here; Are the salaries too high, or perhaps the plane was WAY overpriced when new--what gives?

May 09 2011 at 1:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Flew coast to coast and dinner was a turkey frank!

May 08 2011 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Airports can take their no parking at curbside, their fees for snacks and baggage, their enormous fares and their chek-in process and stick it up their a**.

May 08 2011 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't need to worry about airfares going up. I ride the bus now.

May 08 2011 at 9:44 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Not planning to fly again anytime soon. It is very expensive after all the airlines extra charges are added on and the planes are so uncomfortable and congested with everyone dragging their luggage on the plane to avoid the baggage charge and they are flying smaller planes to save money. My lastflight was a few months ago and hopefully it was my last.

May 07 2011 at 11:07 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I never intend to fly again. To expensive, dangerous and you get your junk grabbed.

May 06 2011 at 10:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Take a passenger far less cost...and far less waiting time. No waiting in the station. I've done both, by plane and by train, many times, but my memories of really seeing our country is from ground level...the trains.

May 06 2011 at 9:41 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

OY! And I have two trips for two coming up! Might be best to just hijack a plane to get where I want to go?

May 06 2011 at 6:25 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply