Steals & Deals on Flights

Luggage fees, ludicrous fares, insane delays. It’s enough to make us all afraid of flying. But New York Times Practical Traveler Michelle Higgins has five web sites that will help you get in the air for cheap.


Monitors deals sent out to airline frequent flyer programs and posts the codes for all to use. You get the coupon without the junk e-mail. Some deals could save as much as 20%.


Travelers fill out a trip request form and click ‘go.’ Requests are bid on by travel agents who compete to get you the best deal.


Relying on historical airfare prices, this site predicts what direction the price of your ticket will be over the next seven days to help you decide whether to buy now or later.


Alerts travelers to price drops even after the ticket has been purchased. You plug in your ticket confirmation code and Yapta alerts you when the price drops so you can ask for a refund. Travelers may also have to pay airline rebooking fees, which can be $75 to $250 depending on the carrier. The site takes that into consideration and alerts travelers only when the price drop exceeds that fee.


Most travel sites do a good job of digging up the cheapest airfare for a given route, often giving you dozens of options. But when it comes to key factors that can help determine whether a flight is worth the money or is one to avoid – like how much legroom you get, a flight’s on-time performance and mishandled luggage rates – travel sites tend to fall short.

Recently launched InsideTrip provides not just fares but also evaluations of the amount of legroom, how often the flight is on time, how crowded a specific flight typically is and if you can walk to your connection. It even considers how long it usually takes to get through the security checkpoint closest to the gate.

A test search on InsideTrip for round-trip flights from New York to Denver pulled up a list by price. The cheapest option – a $408 flight on Frontier Airlines going there and U.S. Airways for the return that took more than six hours, including a change of planes in Dallas – had a trip quality score of 78. Comfort was rated “very good” and ease of travel was “good.” The top pick, highlighted by a purple symbol, was a nonstop flight on Frontier for just $7 more that offered more legroom on the return flight, less travel time, a better lost bag ranking and shorter security wait times. Its overall score was 89, with “excellent” speed and comfort marks and “very good” ease of travel.

Remember: just because you’re getting a ticket for the lowest price doesn’t always mean it’s the best deal. Check these sites and read Michelle's column for more travel tips.