Trip Coach: August 23, 2005

Bt Thumbnail DefaultBt Thumbnail Default

George Hobica: Hi, thanks for joining the airfare chat... I'm ready to take questions!

_______________________

San Antonio, Texas: I have relatives in different parts of the country and overseas. What's the best way to get a good last-minute airfare if I should have to get to one of them in an emergency?

George Hobica: Usually, the best way to get last minute fares is through a consolidator. You can find their little ads in major newspaper travel sections on Sundays. Another good resource is Cheapflights at cheapflights.com which lists consolidators alongside regular published fares. You might also try sites like priceline.com and hotwire.com

_______________________

St. Croix, VI: We'll be leaving either from PHL or DCA to go to Zurich in mid-Dec, but probably not returning until Feb 2006. Could we use a chap package for air/hotel in Europe and just not use return flight? Would we get killed with return fare OW in Feb/Mar? Two seniors.

George Hobica: You are probably better off buying a consolidator fare that has a longer stay period rather than throwing away the return portion of a RT ticket and then buying a oneway back home

_______________________

Washington, NJ: We are planning an Alaskan cruise next summer (July 2006), when is the best time to purchase 4 roundtrip tickets from Newark to Seattle?

George Hobica: The best time to buy a fare from Newark to Seattle is the very moment that a hidden fare war breaks out, which I have seen happen on that route. Last year Northwest and Continental were having a "fare war" sale to Anchorage.. Northwest from Newark, a Continental hub, and Continental from Detroit and Minneapolis, Northwest's hubs.

_______________________

New Albany, IN: We have planned a cruise for Feb. 2006 and need a flight from Louisville, KY to Miami, FL. All the flights seem high right now. What is the best time to book this flight?

George Hobica: You have plenty of time to wait for a low fare, unless you're traveling over the school break periods, in which case that's why they're high. Airlines lower fares on certain routes every day without advertising these reductions--these are the kinds of hidden sales we cover on airfarewatchdog.com-- so check the fares every day and you might be surprised to see that it's suddenly gone way down for no apparent reason. Also, you might try flying into Ft. Lauderdale rather than Miami. Since Southwest Airlines covers that route, fares will be cheaper.

_______________________

Wilbraham, MA: Have you observed any pattern as to when Southwest opens their booking? Right now you can only book until Dec. 12. It has been this way for a while. They don't reveal when the rest of Dec. etc. will open. Is it done by "season" or some other pattern.

George Hobica: Southwest only publishes their fares up to a certain date; but truthfully their fares are always the same, and their sales are always the same. I would just wait until later in the fall before trying to figure out what fares will be after Dec 12 (you can be sure there'll be fewer discounted seats just before the holidays). And I'd sign up for their Ding fares at southwest.com/ding since they're often lower than other Southwest fares. They come delivered to your computer once or twice a day.

_______________________

Hennessey, Oklahoma: I need to get from Puerto Rico to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. What would be the least expensive way? About Nov. 5th to Nov. 12th? Thanks!!

George Hobica: There are several low cost airlines you might try, other than American Airlines; I'd try Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia and see what you get.

_______________________

Brighton, CO: Is Christmas day a good day to try to fly as a non-rev passenger from Houston to Paris on Continental Airlines?

George Hobica: I would say that's going to be one of the slowest days of the year on that route, so yes.

_______________________

Boston, MA: What is the best way to search for cheap airfare when your dates are extremely flexible? I want to travel to Zurich, Switzerland sometime this winter (anytime between Nov and March, their low-peak time) and care more about the price than about the exact dates. Most websites make you enter dates of travel (or only +/- 3 days on either end) when perhaps going the week before or the week after might save substantial amounts of money. What is a good way of finding the absolute best price on an airline ticket when the travel dates are extremely flexible? Thanks.

George Hobica: Travelocity has the most robust flexible date search, since it includes international fares (the others don't) and it goes out 330 days, whereas Orbitz' only goes out 30 days. So I would definitely use Travelocity to gauge the market. But I would also check the other sites, including swiss.com .... Recently Swiss Air Lines has had fares that are lower than what I've found on sites like Travelocity .

_______________________

Austin, TX: I am wondering if one can purchase a "package" trip, but only use parts of it. It seems like it could be economical on occasion. We travel a lot, lived overseas, and usually rent a car...but do people ever use the package just for airfare and/or a couple nights in the hotel, or whatever portion they want? Thanks

George Hobica: Yes indeed, sometimes it's cheaper to buy a package and not use all of it such as the hotel portion. Just make sure that no part of your package is cancelled if you don't show up for another element of the package. You won't be penalized

_______________________

Latham, NY: My husband & I will be taking a package tour to Italy in March. It includes r/t air. We are arriving a few days early to visit our daughter who is studying in Paris. Any suggestions for the best way to get from Milan to Paris and back? Thanks much.

George Hobica: There are many discount European airlines now. One place to look for them is a site at whichbudget.com ... it's usually cheaper now to fly between European cities, but I prefer to take the train

_______________________

Somerville, NJ: Since airfares can vary so much, when planning a trip to a specific destination, when is truly the best time to buy the tickets to ensure the best price? 21 days in advance, one month in advance, or longer?

What can be done if you have already purchased your tickets, and afterwards, the price drops dramatically?

Do any airlines offer discounts for children flying with their parents?

George Hobica: Usually the cheapest fares are 21 days in advance, but fares fluctuate throughout the day....something that most people don't realize. The real sales are the unadvertised hidden fare wars, which, again, we try to capture at airfarewatchdog.com-- I've seen Pittsburgh to LA start at $350 RT, then go down to $79 RT, then up to $128 RT, and then back to 350, all in the matter of a few hours, for example

_______________________

San Franisco, CA: My daughter will be attending college in London and so will be needing roundtrip tickets originating there to come home for holidays. I have read of London "bucket shops" but so far have been unable to locate any. What are some good sources of cheap London-San Francisco roundtrip tickets? Thanks.

George Hobica: I would take a look at Cheapflights.com 's UK site... and also if you can find a copy of a Sunday London newspaper like the Times, look in the travel section

_______________________

Vienna, VA: We are planning a trip for May, 2006, to the Caribbean or Hawaii. Will it be safe to make airline reservations this far in advance considering the oil situation, and what will happen if the airline we buy a ticket from goes out of business?

George Hobica: I would wait... there's no reason to buy the fare this far ahead unless there's a sudden, really good sale. If you buy a ticket with a credit card you have some protection if the airline stops flying within 60 days of purchase...but I doubt that any of the big airlines will go out of business. They may file chapter 11, but that's different.

_______________________

Philadelphia, PA: For several months I have been following air fares for a group of 6 friends traveling from PHL to Naples,Italy in May 2006 (5/18- 5/29). Our ages are 65, 63, 63, 63, 62, 59 respectively. I have not booked any tickets because I expect the prices to get cheaper, but with each passing week the prices seem to increase. Should I book now, or wait a little longer?

George Hobica: It's really hard to say. You might want to check fares out of New York, or Newark... and instead of going into Naples directly, try a larger city like Rome or Milan and look into train connections.

_______________________

Heber City, UT: What's the best way to find the lowest business class fares for long overseas flights?

George Hobica: Increasingly, airlines have great business class deals on their own web sites, such as swiss.com or delta.com ... Continental had some amazing fares to Europe this summer in business class. Or you can try a site like www.1stair.com which consolidates business class seats

_______________________

Oakland CA: In July we found inexpensive Business Class fares ($2500 each) to both Buenos Aires & Europe. Why aren't these advertised? We found them when we were just checking to see how outrageous the price would be.

George Hobica: Business class has really come down in price as you can see. lot of the best fares aren't advertised because the airlines only want to sell a certain number of seats at the sale price. But many sales are advertised on airline web sites, so check your favorite airline under their "specials" or "deals" section.

_______________________

Boston, Mass: I am taking all members of my family to Bavaria on June 24, 2006 for one week vacation. When is the best time to get airline tickets? How much in advance of the date. There will be 36 of us

George Hobica: If you have 36 people then you might want to call an airline or travel agent and ask about a group rate. June may be on the expensive side, but there's no telling exactly where fares are going to be next spring.

_______________________

Orlando, Florida: We will be flying 17 people from MCO - SKB and 4 people from DFW - SKB. Is there a way to get a group rate for this number of people?

George Hobica: 17 people would most likely qualify as a group, depending on the airline. You might also want to work with a travel agent on this.

_______________________

Boston, MA: In general, how can I find out when the cheapest time of year is to travel? A friend of mine is moving to Australia and I would like to go visit, but don't need to travel at any particular time of year. I have had this question before as well, for various trips.

George Hobica: In the past, travel to Australia has been cheapest during their winter, which is our summer. I would definitely check individual airline sites such as Air New Zealand's and Qantas.com .... Air NZ has recently revamped its fare structure, allowing stays over 30 days even at the cheapest fares. It's more important than ever to check airline sites and not to depend solely on Travelocity/Expedia/Orbitz etc.

_______________________

Washington, DC: I'm trying to plan a month-long trip to Buenos Aires for this winter or spring. I can't seem to find airfare that's cheaper than $900. Is this what I should expect, or are there any tricks I should know about to find a lower fare specifically to Argentina? I've looked at the tips published in Budget Travel for general airline tickets, but nothing seems to work for Buenos Aires.
Thanks!

George Hobica: You might try a consolidator ... look in the Sunday Washington Post travel section for their ads. Also, be sure to look at sites like varig.com ... recently I found a fare from Miami to BA for $500 RT; same dates and flights on Travelocity were $1000 RT.... so again, check those airline sites!!

_______________________

Chicago, IL: I would like to travel from Chicago to London sometime in late March/early April 2006, but my dates are flexible. I've noticed that fares are quite high right now. Do you have a recommendation on how to find a good fare for this trip? How long should I wait before purchasing airfare? Thanks.

George Hobica: If you fly before March 31 you'll probably save money compared to after April 1. And I'm sure we'll see $198 RT New York to London fares this winter. Surprisingly, Continental has had a $288 RT fare all summer long from Newark to Bristol UK... and it's pretty easy to take a train or bus from there to other UK destinations.

_______________________

Lansing, MI: Both our sons live and work in Japan. We are in our 70s so really require business class seating for this 12 hour flight. We are willing to fly to any city in the USA to get a good price on business class to Tokyo. Where or where can we find discounted business class fares? We are very flexible in our dates of travel. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

George Hobica: Some of the Japanese airlines like JAL have had discounted business class on their site; it's not as expensive as you might have imagined. But again, sites like www.1stair.com are a good place to look as well. And you might even consider an around-the-world ticket. For some reason, business class is cheaper if you go in a continuous direction. You might have to stop in a couple of other places, or not, depending on the ticket. You can call the airlines directly to find out about RTW tickets or try Air Trek

_______________________

Westminster, MD: Next year taking a trip to Europe. Flying to Berlin Germany and returning from Budapest, Hungary. Any way can I get a round-trip ticket instead of 2 each one-way tickets. If so, which would be the best airline?

George Hobica: This is an "open jaw" ticket... and you should be able to find one pretty easily. LTU German Airways sells open jaws on its Web site (they make it very easy to do do); ltu.com -- although they have a limited route system. You might want to try a travel agent for this one.

_______________________

Lake Villa, IL: We are planning a trip to southern Africa (Swaziland) to visit relatives in June/July/August of 2006. Is there a way to lock in a good fare that far in advance ?

George Hobica: Probably fares for August haven't even been published yet, so I'd wait.

_______________________

Cincinnati, Ohio: I am planning to purchase about 20 tickets from Cincinnati to St.Thomas, (final destination,Jost Vandyke) When is best time to purchase such tickets for April 13-21 dates can be flexible by a day or so. Prices are steep now . any suggestions? What about the concept of tickets to City A, then City B that I read on your website?

George Hobica: I would definitely take a look at Cincinnati to San Juan and then San Juan to St. Thomas as separate fares; and I'd also look into group pricing. Play around with dates, and probably that route will go down without any warning, if only for a few hours or days; so be vigilant and check fares every day.

_______________________

Seattle, WA: Trying to find a frequent flyer trip on NWA from Seattle to Europe on June 30, 2006 and return July 26, 2006. No luck on internet or on telephone for the last month. How long should I keep trying for freebie before breaking down and buying a ticket? And, if buying, best advice for cheap fare?

George Hobica: Using frequent flyer miles is very hard these days on European routes. But you might keep trying, or there may be an option to spend more miles to make seats available (that's if you have them). A lot of people have just given up on miles altogether it's so hard to get seats on popular routes.

_______________________

San Mateo, CA: I've been researching airfares online for a while and though there is some sort of "mathematical" satisfaction from comparing loads of airlines & fares, it is first of all, exhausting, and more importantly, there always seems to be the omnipresent feeling that I got gyped because I missed a much better deal somewhere in an obscure wrinkle of the Internet. Is there any insight you have into this satisfaction/optimization dilemma? Thanks! PS: I am currently searching for low fares to Tahiti from San Francisco over Thanksgiving time frame and fear to commit in case a better deal will show up in a month or two.

George Hobica: The best advice I can give is to search every avenue. It really doesn't take that long to exhaust the possibilities if you're searching just one route and set of dates. First, airfares change on some routes several times a day; second, no one site has the best deal; you can save hundreds of dollars by checking them all; it might take you five minutes to save $500,....who gets paid that much per hour?! I have some advice on how to find low airfares on my blog.

_______________________

Grand Rapids, Michigan: My friend had purchased airfare for 5 people from Grand Rapids to Orlando (11-5 & returning 11-12). US Air decided to stop flying out of Grand Rapids a couple months after she made the reservations. What are her options and what is US Air's responsibility in this matter? Thank you!

George Hobica: US Air should try to get you on another airline. This happens all the time as airlines adjust their schedules in an effort to make money. At least they warned you! I've heard of people showing up at the airport for non-existent flights. It's always a good idea to call a few days ahead to make sure the schedule hasn't changed.

_______________________

New York, NY:  We are three adult males needing the cheapest non-stop round trip from NYC/Newark to Cairo September 6-16. The World Judo Championships are being held there. We would also like to fly to a Red Sea/Sinai resort for some sun & R&R. Thank you.

George Hobica: Probably a consolidator specializing in the Middle East would be your best bet. You can also buy consolidator tickets via some travel agencies.

_______________________

Richmond, VA: My husband (we are both in our mid-thirties)and I are flying to Los Angeles from Richmond, VA. Dates of travel are November 11-19, 2005. We've checked various websites, and have spoken to a travel agent, and the lowest fare we have found is $360. I realize this is a good fare, but I've seen and flown on cheaper fares in the past. Any suggestions?

George Hobica: I'm sure that fare will come down, but perhaps not before November. Denver to Richmond was recently under $150 RT ,and LA to Denver has been $128 this week: so even adding those two routes you come up with $278 plus tax. You might also check other LA area airports to Richmond. Check our site.. if the fare gets crazy low we'll have it I'll bet!

_______________________

St. Louis, MO: We recently started bidding on skyauction.com for
flights to Australia - my boyfriend is Australian and
we would like to go for his friend's wedding in
March, but it would be at least $3000 for the two of
us! So, question one is, Do you know anything
about Sky Auction, and question two is, How can
we find great deals from STL to Australia when we
don't need lodging and rental cars. Thank you.

George Hobica: i would check fares from St. Louis to LA separately and then see what you can find at qantas.com or airnewzealand.com from LA to Australia. You have to change planes anyway.... and I've seen many under $900 fares LA/Sydney recently and sometimes LA/STL is under $150 RT. So try researching two separate fares.

_______________________

Plano, TX: Hi! I'm planning to go to India around Christmas. All the tickets I've seen from DFW-DEL for 12/18-1/4 seem to be really expensive... at least $1900. Do you have any suggestions or strategies for finding airfares lower to than this? Would it be less expensive for me to fly from Dallas to another destination that might have cheaper flights? Thanks!

George Hobica: The airlines simply jack up fares during the time you want to go, so it's hard finding deals. You could certainly try a DFW-Newark fare and then see what Continental wants on its new Newark/Delhi nonstop. Air India usually has the best prices. And without sounding like a broken record, look into consolidators.

_______________________

Ventura, CA: We're going on an Antarctic cruise Nov. 14 with airfare from Miami. We want to go early to Miami on Nov. 10 or 11 and back home on the 30th. (We get back on the 29th, but I am afraid of missing a connection, so we'll spend the night in Miami.) How do I get the best airfare from LAX or Burbank, and when is the best time to start looking?

George Hobica: I'd start looking right now, but you don't need to commit quite yet. Also, consider flying to/from Ft. Lauderdale rather than Miami. It's not too hard finding transportation from FLL to the Miami piers, and the money you save on airfare for two people will make it well worth the effort. Southwest is having a sale right now LAX/FLL so take a look at them as a possibility. Just buy before the sale ends!

_______________________

George Hobica: Well, that's about all we have time for! Thanks for joining the chat today!

_______________________

Related Content