Though scalpers hid in the shadows when reselling tickets was illegal, today they could be anybody—an individual with some spare tickets, a small-time speculator looking to make a windfall, or a professional ticket broker. Although not long ago there were limits placed on ticket markups, resellers are now largely free to sell tickets at whatever prices consumers might pay—which can be quite a lot. The average markup on tickets offered for sale on the secondary market was 49 percent above face value, though the margins sometimes exceeded 1,000 percent, the New York probe found.
One of these sites is Jack's Flight Club* (JFC), which is independently run and sends its members email alerts with details of cheap flights. If you're flexible about when and where you go, this can be a good way to grab a bargain – its basic service is free, though right now we've blagged a free 30-day trial of its premium service which spots more deals.
The latest research from the comparison site Momondo* found it's generally best to book 60 days ahead (last time it did the research it was 56) and that booking then can be up to 30% cheaper than booking on the day of departure. The last cheap booking date varies by destination, though, so you can use Momondo's 'Flight Insight' tab on many routes to see the data for it (see Flight Insight for info).
Many airline websites allow customers to purchase one fare and "up fare" the purchase to a higher fare by the calling the Web Services phone number for that airline. This allows travelers to avoid penalties incurred by booking the ticket through a reservation agent while also giving them credit for any "online booking mileage bonus points" the airline may be offering.
If it's happened to you, contact the airline or booking site straight away to see if you can get it amended (see How to Complain for help). Let them know it's a known fault others have reported too. Yet sadly you've few rights if the airline refuses to correct it, as it'd be difficult to prove it's their error, and it may charge you fees to amend or cancel.
Ticket scalping (aka ticket reselling) is an illegitimate practice of buying tickets to an event and reselling them at inflated rates in the secondary market. In the pre-internet era, ticket touts bought the tickets physically and sold them for a huge profit. Today, bots are programmed by attackers to scalp a maximum number of tickets from a portal as soon as a sale or booking opens.
Always check, and be discerning. Sometimes OTAs won’t include all of their fees upfront. Also, if you think you might need to change or cancel your flight, it’s better to book through the airline as aggregators add cancelation fees. Only book with an OTA if you are certain of your flight dates – and only if you’re getting a significantly lower fare. For example, on long-haul KLM flights there is only £15-£20 off if booked with an aggregator. With BA, aggregators could offer a discount of up to £60 on a long-haul economy ticket – a more significant saving. And most short-haul European flights are best booked directly with the airline as the price is often roughly the same.
Airfare and lodging costs can be the difference between a cheap trip and an expensive one. As my friends and I are still relatively young with little expendable income to spare, our collective trip planning usually involves the following questions: “Can we drive there?” and “Do we have somewhere free to stay?” As a result, most of our trips take us to nearby cities where friends and acquaintances live—which is an effective solution, but one that involves many visits to Pennsylvania and Connecticut and little else.
A couple of sites are better for flights to Europe than flights within Europe, and some nice features make their results easier to navigate. Expedia is easy to use and consistent at finding good fares. CheapoAir offers pricing tables for mixed-airline flights to and from Europe. Vayama specializes in international flights, with cheaper fares that might not show up elsewhere — but beware that its customer service doesn't have a stellar reputation for handling cancellations and changes. (For cheap flights within Europe, I prefer Skyscanner.)
Sometimes the best bargains are made through the traveler's own improvisation. The budget airlines in Southeast Asia and Europe are famously cheap, but Americans can only rarely directly connect to them through major airline flights through the United States, as the budget airlines often operate at secondary airports that are rarely serviced by major airlines. Accessing those cheap flights requires some improvisation, such as transferring from London's Gatwick or Heathrow to Stansted. However, when doing this, it is important to factor all costs into the bill. Budget airlines like Ryanair are notorious for their nickel-and-dime approach to fees, and those airport-to-airport buses and trains aren't free. Also, the hassle of switching airports might not be worth it for travelers encumbered with heavy luggage. This strategy works, but it requires thorough research and careful consideration.
If you already have a credit card, or if you are planning to open one in the near future, consider switching or starting with an airline rewards card. You’ll be able to rack up frequent flier points when you’re not flying and cash in on free flights and member discounts/benefits as you spend! Check out the great community at /r/Churning for ideas on how to up your points game!
One of the reasons why Southwest doesn't offer its fares on online travel agents (OTAs) is important: Should your flight get canceled or you need to change or cancel your itinerary, all customer service will go through the OTA and not the airline you're flying. Big name OTAs—Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, etc.— have been around long enough to have strong customer service that usually won't derail your trip. But be more cautious with OTAs you haven't heard of before—and read the fine print—as there may be heavy change fees involved that wouldn't apply if you booked directly with the airline. (The real time to use OTAs is when you have a complex or multi-destination itinerary, one that requires multiple airlines and would be impossible to book on one airline's site.)
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I never even considered the VPN bit. I’ve noticed a large difference between prices I can get here in South Africa and those a friend who lives in the States is able to get. It seems so unfair but it’s understandable. I think there’s actually a site that you can go to that gets you low prices by skipping middle layover routes, but cannot recall what it was called.
When the pre-sale tickets for The Tragically Hip’s final tour went on a sale, many of the fans were shattered after realizing that the tickets, which were sold out instantly, appeared on reseller sites like StubHub at up to 10 times the original price. Similarly, in December 2015, the tickets for Adele’s US tour on Ticketmaster got sold out in a few minutes. Many of those tickets were up for sale on resale sites such as eBay, StubHub, etc., where even the floor tickets cost about $4000. These are just the tip of the iceberg as many such ticketing websites have fallen prey to ticket scalping attack.
Most people have some degree of anxiety when booking airline tickets. There often seems to be no logic to fares, and once you're onboard you wonder if the person next to you got a better deal than you did. If you're willing to invest a little time, however, you can find a great airfare and feel confident that, even if you didn't get the cheapest ticket of everyone on your flight, you did pretty well. Here are 8 tips to help you find the best airfare.
Online travel agencies, such as Kayak, Travelocity and Orbitz, have made the search for inexpensive airfare easier than ever. Perhaps because of that, many travelers begin and end their search for airfares with one of these sites. Yet there is more a traveler can do to find moderately priced airfares with fewer stops and/or better timing; stopping after the initial search means missing out on these opportunities.
"Cheap" is always relative, depending on your budget and needs, but we have a few guidelines in the Traveler office for what counts as a good deal from the U.S. Flights to Europe at or under $400 round-trip are a go. Getting to Northern Africa for less than $500 is a steal. Round-trips to South America at or under $500 are also great, a number that applies to flights to Asia, too. Going farther afield, anything under $1,000 is a stellar deal for southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. That said, if you see a flight that's cheap enough to make you want to book, go for it. The "grass is greener, flight is cheaper" mentality of waiting for the least expensive flight will make you miss out on some great (and yes, cheap) flights.
7. Research the going ticket rates: It's kind of like telling a student to brush up on reading and math. But Menard and others believe this advice is worth repeating. Study the secondary platforms where you'll buy and sell your tickets -- StubHub, eBay,Craigslist, RazorGator and the like. You need to know the ceiling and floor prices. They're the basis for doing solid business in cyberspace and in the parking lot. Clark Howard, author of Living Large in Lean Times (Avery Penguin $18), recommends SeatGeek.com, a one-stop shop to help buyers compare different vendors. While it's targeted at buyers, scalpers also can benefit from the information.
Let’s say you’re bumped from a flight, but the airline still manages to get you where you’re going within an hour of the original arrival time. You’ve got no cause to complain, really, other than just being a dick, and you’re not going to see any compensation. BUT, if you arrive between one and two hours past your original arrival time on a domestic flight (or between one and four hours for international), they owe you compensation of 200% of the one-way fare to your destination -- up to a maximum of $675. And for domestic flights arriving more than two hours later, you are entitled to 400% of your one-way fare -- the US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires they compensate you in cash, up to $1,350.