Saving with 6abc: Getting airfare deals

January 3, 2012 2:52:26 PM PST
The year 2011 was a bumpy year for airfare.

If you're thinking about taking a trip this new year, you may have seen some offers that sound great - but Consumer Reports says unless you are a savvy shopper, you can be quickly disappointed.

"You see a lot of airfare deals out there that sound great," says Tod Marks of Consumer Reports. "But hidden fees, fine print, and blackout dates can make locking in a great deal as tricky as a soft landing in turbulence."

For instance, a Travelocity "deal" on a round-trip flight from Philadelphia to London costs $277. But once you actually book and get everything squared away, the cost climbs to $666!

"Spirit Airlines promotes flights that cost as a little as $9 dollars!" Marks says, "but to qualify you have to join its $9 club, which costs around $60. And you also may be subject to a lot of additional fees.

"Now there are ways to get a great deal on a flight. Ideally, you want to book in advance, and never within two weeks of travel."

Also, you should take advantage of alerts that many airlines and travel sites let you set up to track fares.

Another good point is to time your purchase!

"Experts tell us there really is a best time to book, and that's at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on a Tuesday," Marks said. "Believe it or not, that's when the greatest number of discount seats hit the market."

Other money-saving moves, Consumer Reports says don't skip going directly to airline sites in addition to Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline.

Don't assume discount carriers are the cheapest. Major carriers can't afford to be more expensive than low-price operators because that lands them a lower listing in search-engine results.

Also wondering if you should buy now or wait to buy to your ticket? We've got a great online tool to help you figure that out. Just follow this link to For some air fare predictors.