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How to buy airline tickets online to get best price

Airlines, like most businesses, want to make the most profit possible. In a "normal" business, every customer basically pays the same price. For example, if you go into a grocery store, you know that you are paying the same for your milk as the person ahead of you in line. That is not the case in the airline business. When flying, you are more likely to have paid a different price for your seat than the person next to you. Airlines try to squeeze the most profit out of each and every seat.

As a consumer, your goal is to pay as little as possible for your airline ticket. You don't want to be the person that paid the most in your row on the airplane! To accomplish this goal, you need to know how to buy airline tickets online.

We here at Research Maniacs often have to travel for our research and we usually buy airline tickets online. Here are some tricks and tips we have picked up along the way. This is how you should order airline tickets online to get the best price.

Buy/Search a small quantity of tickets with each order
We found that many airlines have different prices available for the same flight. For example, 3 tickets for $300, 5 tickets for $400, and 10 tickets for $500 and so on. In this example, if you search for 1-3 tickets, the airline will display the $300 price, because they have 3 tickets available at that price. However, if you search for 6 tickets, they are going to charge you the same price for each ticket, so they won't show you the $300 seats, because they don't have 6 at that price. Instead they will bump up the price for all tickets to the next level. Thus, each ticket would cost $500.00.

Plan ahead
If you know you need to fly somewhere, order your ticket now. The sooner you buy your ticket, the less expensive it will be. If you buy the ticket early, you are more likely to get the least expensive ticket for the flight. Furthermore, the longer into the future a flight is, the less demand for it, thus a lower price. It's simple economics.

Don't return on Sunday
People like to return home on Sundays. Thus, the demand for Sunday flights is high. When the demand is high, the price goes up. The lowest demand for return flights is Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Buy return ticket from different airline
You don't always get the best price by buying the return ticket from the same airline. Search one-way tickets from different airlines to see if you can save money.

Check prices often
We have seen them change from day to day, sometimes even hour to hour.

Shop Around
Make a spreadsheet and check multiple airlines and multiple travel sites. You'll be surprised by how much they differ in price and options.

Flexible on day you travel
The more flexible your travel plans are, the better price you can get. We talked to one retired couple who flies to visit their family all year around. Their family is scattered all over the US. Anyway, instead of letting their schedule dictate when to fly, they let the availability of cheap airline tickets determine when they fly. Maybe a little extreme, but could work if you are retired?

Compare apples to apples
Don't only look at the price displayed. Make sure to check fees for luggage, ordering fees, taxes, etc. to make sure you have the actual cost of all the fares you compare. What looks cheapest on the surface, may actually be very expensive after you have to pay for all the "extras". This is becoming more and more important. It seems everything is "extra" when flying these days.

Below are comments from Research Maniacs visitors. Feel free to contact us if you have airline ticket shopping tips.

I fly a couple of times a month and shop online for airline tickets. I found that the prices on different travel sites change from day to day, but only if I clear the cookies in my Internet web browser. FROM: Calvin - Charlotte, North Carolina

Just because a travel site says it checks all airlines and offers you the best prices available, doesn't mean that they actually do that. I compared some travel sites to individual airline sites and sometimes found better prices on the airline site. FROM: Arnold - Peoria, Illinois


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