There is something comforting about trying to hunt down the best airfare on the Internet; there is at least a little glamour still that surrounds the idea of flying, and there is just so much public clamor about getting the best fare that it can turn into a sport for some. The year’s peak travel season, Christmas comes up soon, and doubtless, there could be a lot of people playing the sport whether they like it or not, looking for the best prices on last minute air tickets. But we have all heard of how there are people who venture into this, armed with strategies and game plans; it sure would be useful to have some of those handy around Christmas.
Everyone has heard of how a last minute air ticket for a Friday night or Sunday night departure is usually more expensive to buy than other flights; and how Thursday and Saturday mornings are cheaper. That is actually true in the general sense; but more dependable is the tradition airlines keep up of setting aside Tuesdays and Wednesdays to put the cheap coach and first-class seats for sale. Buying a last minute air ticket on those two days is a good plan. Plans like these work best when your travel plans are flexible though.
In simpler times, if you wanted a cheap last minute air ticket, you could just show up at the airport at the last minute. But dont leave it too late or you might only get on with your hand luggage or cabin cases. This is tougher now: people who buy tickets at the last minute however, can look forward to some extra intrusive security checks. As much as we depend on the Internet for everything now, there still are unpublicized off-line discounts to be had. Calling the airline directly shortly before a domestic flight can net you a great bargain. Airlines also make last-minute bulk sales to the bucket shops or the ticket consolidators or aggregators like Expedia; checking with one such agent a few hours before a flight can bring up unexpected bargains too.
If the time you’re trying to travel happens shortly in advance of a major public event near your destination, it is possible that the airlines put up extra capacity on the route to make a killing and actually overestimated demand. Just as often as not, cheap last minute air tickets become available around the time of some major event.
Flights operated for domestic travel inside the USA work on a deregulated price system. They change their prices in response to market forces from hour to hour. Flights on foreign routes are a different matter though: those flights are quite price-regulated by the IATA. The IATA actually sounds like some kind of an industry body that enforces standards of some kind. In fact, the IATA is a cartel that indulges in price-fixing, keeping prices artificially high. The fact that foreign routes are regulated by the IATA is the reason those fares don’t seem quite as flexible or as reasonable as domestic ones. They don’t allow member airlines to cut prices. They do manage discounts though, working through travel agents. So for a discount on a last minute air ticket on an unfilled seat, approaching the airline is quite unnecessary. Phone your friendly neighbourhood bucket shop and they should be able to help. And the sad part is, websites like Expedia just give you the official IATA price information – not the inside story.