Whether you travel for work, pleasure or a mixture of both, there are countless decisions one makes whenever planning a trip. One of the most important, financially and otherwise, is selecting an airline.
I try every trick in the book to save as much money as possible when I travel. One area in which I am not usually flexible though is selecting an airline.
When most people begin the travel planning process, a visit to one of the online consolidators, such as Expedia or Orbitz is usually the first stop. I do the same. I love these sites for helping identify potential airlines and a general range of prices over a series of dates. Where I differ from other people though is that I almost never, ever actually purchase a ticket on these sites.
Airlines like loyalty, and they usually reward people for loyalty both in flying and during the booking process.
I am a miles whore, and have been since my first commercial flight. I do everything I can to accumulate as many airline miles as I can, as quickly as possible. While using affinity credit cards and registering for dining rewards helps, there is nothing better than a flight to really start accumulating miles.
Not everyone flies enough to do this, but if you take more than 2-3 flights a year, then you really should be loyal to one airline as much as possible. Usually, if the flight is more expensive than others, it is only by a few dollars. What you gain in return though makes this a fantastic travel investment.
Most airlines have three-four tiers of frequent flier status, with each level adding benefits. Upgrades, lounge access and special mileage multipliers are just some of the many perks afforded to those who don’t cheat on their airline of choice. As you get higher, you actually start accumulating miles at a faster rate, and when you want to cash out the miles for a fabulous trip, it’s easier to do so if you have status. Ultimately, if you are a frequent flier and aren’t staying loyal to one airline as much as possible, you are throwing away money rather than saving it.
Even if you don’t fly very often, it also pays to be loyal to airline websites. Sites like Expedia purchase tickets from the airlines in large quantities, allowing them to undercut the airlines and sell the same seats for less money. At least that used to be the case. Lately, in a bid to increase direct ticket sales, the airlines nave priced many fares at very competitive levels. The airlines also have random, secret sales that offer tremendous discounts on tickets not offered on budget travel sites.
Aside from the negligible financial benefit of booking with Expedia, the airlines also reward passengers based on where they book. Well, technically, they reward based on fare type sold, but on discount sites you usually book the lowest are class available. When it comes time to offer complimentary upgrades, there are many factors involved, but fare type is an important one. There is no reason to disqualify yourself when you’re not even saving that much money,
Frequent flier programs are one of the best perks available to the traveler, especially in a time of increasing fees and declining levels of service. Ultimately, your loyalty not only affords certain perks, but it will enable you to travel more for less when you redeem those precious, precious miles. Saving money is great, but sometimes there is greater benefit in spending a little bit more money in order to have a more comfortable and rewarding travel experience.