Timing is King
Timing is everything and you’ll likely pay a big premium for booking too late (within 2 weeks), or for booking too early (more than 5 months in advance). If you are travel domestic somewhere between 3 weeks and 4 months in advance is usually the sweet spot for flights within the U.S., although all bets are off if you’re traveling for a holiday or other peak time.
Search for flights midweek
Most airlines launch their sales on Tuesdays and end them on Thursdays, so don’t limit your searches to the weekends. Most of the time it is cheaper to leave on a weekday. Advertised fare sales generally target the next two or three months of travel and have 14- to 21-day advance purchase requirements.
Be open to alternate airports.
The more options you have in terms of airports and travel dates, the more likely you will find what may be one of the last discount seats to where you are going. For example, JetBlue mainly flies to Long Beach instead of LAX — so if you can fly into LGB, you might save as much as $50-$100 on the flight. Consider the same for Chicago, New York, the Bay Area, Dallas, Houston, South Florida and Washington, D.C.
Beware of fees
Fees can pile up so quickly. Different airlines have different policies on baggage. Ensure you’ve booked & paid for your luggage allowance. Adhere to restrictions on weight, height, and # of bags allowed. Some airlines will charge a hefty fee if you’re over.
Sign Up for Airfare Alerts and Track Routes
Sign up for CheapAir FareTracker alerts to get notified more quickly when a sale starts and get a head start when only a limited number of seats are available.
Non-stop vs. connecting flights
Compare the price of non-stops with connecting flights. Sometimes adding a stop to your route will save you money and it might be enough to ensure the extra-long flying day.
Beware on the aggregators
Most aggregators you generally rely on are no longer able to find the cheapest ticket that includes the combination of the extras you want. So, for each feasible itinerary, you have to check fares and extra fees on each airline’s website.
The lowest fare isn’t always the cheapest
Airlines with the lowest fares are not necessarily the cheapest after you figure in the “extras”. For example Southwest: If you intend to check a bag or bags, round-trip, its no-charge policy for two bags gives it a minimum $50 cushion over any competitor that charges the usual $25 per bag each way.
Pick a FREQUENT FLIER PROGRAM.
Airline rewards programs are a great way to get cheap flights, free upgrades, and free companion tickets. No matter how often you fly, you should be signed up for the airline’s reward program.
Some seniors discounts do exist
Travelers age 65+ or over should check Southwest. It’s the only North American airline with useful senior fares. Seniors could usually get a lower Southwest fare with an any-age ticket than on the senior fare, but now those low any-age tickets sell out well in advance, and the senior fares look better all the time.