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Five Airline Travel Tips that Could Save You Thousands of Dollars

If you haven’t noticed, with more people flying, most airlines have changed their fares, forcing business travelers to dig deeper into their pockets. If you have saved up frequent-flyer miles, you’ll realize that they are worth a lot less. Here are some suggestions for getting A LOT more for your money:

1. The later you book, the more you pay. Just last week I checked Mar30_1 American Airlines for a flight from Miami to San Francisco. The fare was $687 in first class for the morning and evening flights and $845 for the early afternoon flight. Three days later, the rate for the early afternoon flight skyrocketed to $1,539. Two days later, the fare was reduced to $1,028. If you booked these flights through the code-sharing partner Alaska Airlines, the same fare was still $1,539.

Lesson one: If you fly first class, book early. If you don’t know the exact date you’ll be traveling, book a second ticket for the next day. You can always cancel one or both, and you won’t pay a penalty.

Lesson two: If you want to upgrade to first class, check the rates closer to the departure date. The rates may go down in case the premium seats aren’t sold.

Lesson three: Don’t make your favorite airline the first stop to shop. Begin your trip research on Orbitz or Travelocity so you can find the best options.

2. The price is the same, but you get less comfort. When it comes to longer trips, a better seat can make a huge difference. For example, the price for a first-class ticket from San Francisco to Dallas on all eight nonstop flights is $842, but there is a big difference between flying on the MD80, where you get limited seat recline, and a Boeing 767-300 with lie-flat seats.

Lesson one: Find out what type of plane you’ll be flying on before booking your flight.

Lesson two: Not all seats are alike. Go to, where you can check a seating chart for every plane on every major airline. You’ll discover which seats don’t recline (the ones next to the emergency exists), which have more legroom than others, and which should be avoided.

3. Use your miles wisely.
Mar30_2 Let’s say you want to use your miles to fly from NYC to LA on United. If you use your United frequent-flyer miles, you will have to invest 70,000 miles. If you go to the US Air Website, you can get the same first-class ticket with only 50,000 miles.

Click the image to access the US mileage chart.
Lesson: Don’t book your United mileage award on the United Website; call US Air instead. Save thousands of miles.

4. Buy miles and save thousands – like on this US Air deal, which expires on 3/31/10.
Mar30_3Until March 31, 2010, US Air is running a promotion, during which you can buy as many as 50,000 miles and get a 100 percent mileage bonus. The cost per mile is 0.275. Do the math: For only $1,375, you can buy 100,000 miles. If you need more miles, get a friend to buy them for you, and then transfer the miles into your account (until 3/31/10, you’ll also get free transfers).

The savings are astonishing. Let’s say you wanted to get a first-class ticket on United (code-share partner of US Air) from Washington, DC, to Paris; you’d have to pay $15,249. You can purchase that ticket from United for 135,000 miles – or you can get the SAME ticket from US Air for only 125,000 miles. In this scenario, your mileage cost is $1,718.75, and you save $13,530. (An economy ticket on that flight would be $846, and a business-class ticket $8,246.) With great deals like these, you can’t afford to stay home.

5. Why would you want to buy some points on Alaska Airlines before 3/31/10?
Two reasons:First, you get a 30 percent mileage bonus. Second, Alaska’s partners are American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, and Quantas. If you are planning a vacation on an AA flight, you can only buy 60,000 additional miles in one year. If you buy miles from Alaska (until 3/31/10), you can buy 30,000 miles at a time (plus 30 percent bonus), but there is no limit on the number of purchases you can make.

Mar30_4American Airlines sells novelty items on its Website. Here is a pair of AA cufflinks offered for $25. Take a look at the picture. Makes you wonder if that image mirrors the transparency of AA’s fare policies.

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