Everybody loves a bargain, especially when it comes to travel. The hottest competition for your travel dollar these days is in offering cheap airplane tickets, but how cheap are they really, and what are the risks?
There is the old saying that you get what you pay for, and there is some truth to this when it comes to cheap airfare. Not all tickets are equal, nor are all ticket vendors. Before handing over your credit card, know exactly what you are getting (or not getting) for your money, and who, exactly, you are giving your money to.
The first decision is where to buy the ticket. The options include traditional travel agencies, the airlines themselves, and on-line agencies. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
The store-front travel agency is a good choice for the novice, or for those who need a lot of hand-holding. They are great for handling everything connected with your trip, with little effort on your own part. This of course comes at a price, as no service is ever free. As always, shop around for the best price.
Most of the major airlines offer tickets directly to the public. Many have their own website where the airline tickets can be purchased. Reservations can also be made over the phone. Occasionally bargains are found this way, but usually the airlines offer blocks of seats at a discounted price to resellers, who can then pass them on at a saving to the traveler.
The most popular choice these days is to look for cheap airline tickets on-line, as this is where the real bargains are often found. The rule when shopping this way is “buyer beware.” There are a lot of scammers on the net, and it is all too easy to fall victim to them.
How do you know who to trust? The simplest way to stay safe, is to go with the well-known and trusted sites such as Expedia. Others offer cheaper fares, but there are pit-falls in dealing with them. The internet offers anonymity. It is difficult to know who you are dealing with, whether the product will ever be delivered, and whether the vendor will still be around if you have problems after making a purchase.
Wherever you decide to buy that cheap airline ticket, it is important to know precisely what you are getting.
Recently a well-known store-front travel agency displayed a fare of $79 for a flight to Orlando. It required a magnifying glass to read the fine print that revealed that the full cost, including all taxes and fees, was close to $300! Some on-line agencies give the final price up-front, while with others you won’t know the full cost of the ticket until near the end of the booking process. When comparing prices, be aware of exactly what it is you are comparing.
What restrictions are there on that cheap ticket? Even within economy class, there are different fare codes that decide what is included and what isn’t. On-line fares are e-booking, and you may have to pay extra if you need a paper ticket. Will you have to pay extra to check luggage? What flexibility does the booking offer? Often the cheapest tickets don’t allow for any alterations or cancellation. If your plans change, and you want to leave a day later, stay a day longer or cancel the flight, you are probably out of luck. Payment must be made in full at the time of booking, and most likely no changes can be made after that.
If your flight is postponed, re-routed, or canceled, what arrangements will the airline make? Often cheap tickets don’t include perks such as meals, hotels, or arrangements with another carrier. Under what circumstances will a full or partial refund be offered? If you have to pay full fare on another airline to get back home on time, then that cheap ticket isn’t such a great deal.
As always the final word is research. Thoroughly check-out the vendor, the carrier, and all the terms and conditions. It is possible to get some really cheap airline tickets on-line, but make sure that it really is a bargain, and suits your needs. Once payment is made there is no changing your mind.