12 Tips to Find the Lowest Airfare Prices for Your Clients
Whether you're looking for the lowest airfare prices to Orlando or New York, there are possibilities beyond what the GDS or online booking engines pull up. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. The 12 tips below will help you find the lowest airfare prices for your clients in no time.
I've broken down how to find the lowest airfare into two main categories—published and private fares. If you're unfamiliar with these fare types, you may want to read the primer article—understanding airline fare types. Almost always, the lowest airfare prices for domestic travel, like airfare to Orlando for a Disney World trip, are going to be published fares. But just because they're published doesn't mean that you, as a travel professional, can't work a little magic (pun totally intended) to see if you can find some other options beyond what pulls up in the GDS or the search engines. It's time to pull out some tricks of the travel trade!
Published Airfares: 8 tips to find the Lowest Airfare Prices
- Book in advance but not too far in advance. The prime time to book a published fare is usually 2-4 months prior to the flight. This is typically when the airline begins to lower its prices in order to fill seats. Many airlines follow a 21, 14, 7 day advance purchase structure for last minute tickets - 21 day advance purchase yielding the cheapest fares. Note: If you're booking clients to a popular tourist destination, like Cancun during Spring Break, 2-4 months in advance isn't going to see the fare lowers, it's going to see lower or exhausted inventory. Encourage clients to book those as far in advance as possible!
- Include a Saturday night stay. One way airlines determine if you are flying for business or leisure is whether your trip includes a weekend. Leisure travelers generally fly over weekends and business travelers during the week.
- Fly round-trip. Travelers who fly "one way" are placed at a higher price threshold than round trip passengers and airlines often price one-way fares much higher than the cost of a round-trip ticket.
- Be flexible. Since the airline pricing model is based primarily on supply and demand, you might be able to introduce your clients to additional discounted inventory if they are able to change their travel dates by just a few days.
- Book a package. Try using a tour operator to bundle your clients’ air with a car and/or hotel. The packaged air discounts may bring down the price enough to offset the car and/or hotel nights you’ve added on. If they actually need the car/hotel, even better. If not, well, there's a reason it's called a throw away car/hotel.
- Avoid the holidays. This one might seem obvious. Discounted inventory is scarce around the holidays as everyone’s price threshold is a little higher.
- Stick to the big airports. Big airports have a greater number of flights, which means more competition and more discounted seats available for purchase.
- Search low cost carriers. New, low cost airlines like to play by their own rules. They often do not follow the traditional pricing structures of legacy airlines, and sometimes their best fares can only be found on the airline’s own website. Try JetBlue, Virgin America and Southwest. Many agents will waive the air service fee for clients that are booking other things as part of the overall service they are providing. Find out more about how travel agents make money.
Private Airfares: 4 tips to find the Lowest Airfare Price
- Travel on weekdays. Private fares often have surcharges for traveling on weekends.
- Shop around. Each private fare contract will be priced slightly different and each agency will decide an appropriate markup amount. For travel agents, consolidators are a great way to access private fares. You may also consider partnering with a travel agency that specializes in certain destinations to access their private fares.
- Search for their ideal itinerary. Private fares are great for one-way tickets and can allow for large discounts for travel out of smaller airports—sometimes hundreds of dollars cheaper than the same exact published fare.
- Best for international tickets. While some domestic private fares do exist—try STA Travel if your clients are students, teachers or under 26—most private fares are for international itineraries.
So there you have it, some tricks to help you find the lowest airfare prices for your clients. Are there any tricks you've learned as a travel professional that we missed? Share them in the comments below.
Photo credits: Łukasz Golowanow