When I was full time in the travel business one of the most common questions I was asked was how someone, on a strict budget o otherwise, could get a discount rate on airfare for this or for that.
They were usually booking less then 6 weeks in advance, which is when the best rates have normally disappeared. Sometimes they were asking, for example, because they were a pilot of a private plane or for some other reason for which we could not offer them anything off other then what was the cheapest fare we could find for them at that time.
However there were certain classifications for which they qualified for. Now keep in mind that airfare policies are constantly changing so I am not going to go in depth for each particular airline and what kind of discount they offer as it could change at anytime, but I thought I would write this post to give you just a brief overview of the most common discounts that we were asked about and that are offered by the airlines.
If you take some time and check them out you can potentially save you a lot of money on your next flight.
First of all , if you served in the military or still on active duty, THANK YOU! A discount for active military personnel or for veterans is easily the one where you can save the most money. Now in order to qualify for the military discount rates you must, of course, have an ID Card as you may be required to show this at some or multiple points along the way.
When you are checking on the availability of these special rates, keep in mind that there is a priority list for who gets who gets the best airfare rate.
For example, if you are active military you have priority over a retired veteran and if you are veteran you have priority over military family members and so and so forth..
However, even with that, if you fit in a few of the categories that I have listed below try to go with the military discount first as this will give you the most savings.
The most popular airlines that offer discounts and who you may want to try first are:
- American Airlines 1-800-433 7300
- JetBlue 1 – 800 -538-2583
- Southwest 1- 800-I-FLY-SWA
- Alaska 1 – 800 252 7522
- Delta 1- 800 – 221-1212
- United 1- 800-854-8331
Instead of going to the airline websites, the best way to get your greatest discount is by calling your airline of choice instead of trying to book online some of them even require it, for example American Airlines and Delta.
When you speak to airlines, in addition to asking them about the discounted airfare rates, also make sure to ask them if they allow for free checked and carry on luggage as sometimes they will waive these charges.
In addition They may also even give you access to their lounges so when you arrive at the airport you can get a chance to relax in comfort and style.
Also keep in mind that both military members and their family members who have a Department of Defense ID are given free TSA pre-checks. This will give you access to the expedited security line.
This, as I mentioned in other post, will save you time getting you through the airport security line. Needless to say if you are traveling with children, this benefit is priceless.
To register, simply go to the TSA pre-check website and enter the number on your DOD ID card. Of course, this will only work with airlines that are in the TSA pre-check.
Ah Seniors .. the golden age.. The time you are able to get discounts for many of the places and events you go to. So the question is, does it apply to airfare as well?
The short answer is yes, but it may not be as good as it seems as sometimes the senior fares are not as cheap as the already published low fares that are out there.
However, the advantage is if you buy a senior fare they are much less restrictive and can even be refundable, whereas if you purchase the published low rate they often come with many restrictions.
For most airlines, the senior age discounts sometimes start at the age of 55 the more common age is 65. You will have to check with the particular airline for their requirements.
You may also want to check with national associations such as AARP and AAA as they can occasionally have better deals then the published senior fares due to special negotiated rates for there members. Keep in mind that many airlines do not offer senior discount information on their websites.
Therefore you should call the airline you’d like to use to find out whether a senior discount is offered and compare that with others to see if that discount is the best deal for you.
Here is starter list of the more popular airlines that offer discounts to seniors:
- American – Start at age 65 – 1-800-433 7300
- Southwest – Start at age 65 – 1-800-I-FLY-SWA
- British Airways – Start at age 65 – 1-800-247-9297
- United – Start at age 65 – 1-800-854-8331
- Delta – Start at age 65 – 1-800 221-1212
Note that no-frills airlines for example Spirit Airlines, will offer lower fares or fewer fees to passengers who book on their website instead of through a travel agent or online airfare booking agency.
It’s always worth a few minutes of your time to check the airline’s website to see if there is a better offer out there.
Death in Family
This type of discounted airfare is also known as bereavement or compassion fares and back in the day used to offer a big savings for those travelling under difficult circumstances.
It is usually offered for death or sickness of an immediate family member, not friends or distant relatives. The policy varies from airline to airline but you normally can a buy a cheaper plane ticket with only 24-48 hours notice. Both miles and fares can be egregious at the last minute.
However in todays day of travel this has changed quite a bit. This is because some passengers take advantage of this discount without having an actual emergency.
And because the world has become more sophisticated, it has become easier for people to falsify some of the required proof. Therefore, the airlines have had to contact the funeral home, hospital or doctor to verify the validity of the claim and the airlines just don’t have the time or personnel to call .
For these reasons among others its often less expensive to buy a published last minute fare instead of the bereavement rate.
However, that being said, although these fares can and most often are more expensive then the standard last minute airfare rates, you may want to still consider going with these higher rates as the biggest advantage is that they normally will be refundable if, for some reason you are unable to travel.
They also will let you change your dates or even keep your return date open. Both of these last two points can be a real savings depending on your situation.
If you want to what to see what bereavement rates are, here are a few of the remaining airlines that still offer this:
- Air Canada Phone: (888) 247-2262
- Air France Phone: (800) 237-2747
- Delta Air Lines Phone: (800) 433-7300
- Lufthansa Phone: 1-800-645-3880
When considering some of the budget airlines such as Southwest, you need to be aware that they do not have a bereavement rate because, they say, their rates are already discounted and that they also allow for one-way travel.
Before booking one of these types of airfare, I would recommend that you check around with online booking companies and compare that with the rate the airline give you by going direct.
Just make sure you note the fine print for both fares so you understand what the difference is. We all know that, at times like these, the situation is tough enough and the last thing you need is to have to fight with the airlines over there rates.
One if the many advantages of being young is that you are often have the chance to get special discounted rates on airfare.
As a college student, I did an exchange program to Florence, Italy where I took full of the student airfare rates that were available at that time and every since then, whenever a young person would ask me about getting a good price on airfare I would always recommend that they look in student rates.
Sometimes, they weren’t aware there was such a think and would ask what exactly were student and youth rates?
I would then explain that Airlines and even hotels and tour operators can save money for students and youth to travel.
They do this by offering exclusive and heavily discounted rates to people generally under the ago of 25 and they occasionally offer the added advantage of offering more flexibility regarding change fees and refunds, too.
In order to find these youth rates you can go to specialty sites such as STA Travel which not only offers student rates on airfare but also hotel, tours etc. You can also check with the airlines directly as they sometimes have discounted airfare rates for young people.
I would check the rates that these companies offer against those offered to the general public in order to make sure you are getting the best price on your airfare or hotel.
And don’t limit yourself to one airline either; sometimes it can be cheaper to fly to your chosen destination with a couple of stops on separate airlines. Also, it could be less expensive to book two separate one-way flights on different airlines.
Whichever way you decide to go do yourself a favor, if your under 25, make sure you check into these types of rates and see if they work for you and your travel plans
Similar to discounted airfare rates for the military, certain airlines sometimes also provide special rates for government employees.
Although how much you will save compared to the regular airfare rates will depend widely depending on the carrier, its always a good idea to check to see what they offer. Here are a few of the airlines that currently offer special government fares:
- American Airlines – 1-800-433-7300
- Delta – 1-800-325-1771
- JetBlue – 1-888-538-2583
- United Airlines 1-800-863-8331
The advantage of government rates is that are usually fully refundable and sometimes there are no penalties for changing, cancelling or refunding so even if they are a little more then a published rate you may want to keep this mind in case you think you may have to use one of these options because if you purchase a discounted published fare, its usually going the be either very expensive to do or not able to be done at all.
In airline terms a child is usually between 2 – 12 years of age although, as usual, if differs by the airline and by the route take.
With international airfare and major international airlines the rates for children its pretty usual to see about 25% which could translate to be up to several hundred dollars on some fares (even business!)
On domestic flights child airfares, again between 2-12 were typically about 80 percent of what adults paid. But in the world of todays domestic airfare, the chances of getting this type of discount is pretty much gone.
That being said, if you can be somewhat flexible about how, when, and where you fly, you might be able to avoid paying full fare for your child.