Frugal Flying? It’s Possible

2020 was one of the worst years ever for the airline industry, and 2021 saw an extension of those challenges. Now that things have settled down, airlines have resumed operations with the expectation of clear skies ahead. As the travel industry gets back on track in earnest, it’s a great time to research how to get the best flight deal.

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Many airplanes sat collecting dust for the past couple of years, leaving airlines scrambling to gain access to capital and emergency loans to avoid bankruptcy. According to McKinsey & Company, “It’s difficult to overstate just how much [the pandemic] has devastated airlines,” with business declining as much as 60%, and traffic levels not expected to return until at least 2024.  Here’s a look at some great ways Americans are getting back into the skies right now.

Online Travel Agencies

Many people might be familiar with sites such as “Kayak.com” or “Expedia.”  There’s so many flight sites now that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all.  One of the benefits of online travel agencies is that they will scour all airlines that participate for the best possible route for you.  They will also offer multi-airline flight itineraries.  And lastly, sometimes you can find flights cheaper than from airlines themselves on online travel agency websites.

Booking Direct With Airlines

Booking flights directly with airlines makes it easier to cancel your flight or get your refund taken care of directly by the airline; it can also make it easier to cancel your flight due to the “24 hour rule” in the USA.  You can frequently earn more points when booking directly with the airline as well.  Many trusted flight review sources recommend checking the price with both online travel agencies and direct with airlines to see which commercial flight price is cheaper on a case-by-case basis.  And of course, there are some airlines that do not participate in Online Travel Agencies, such as Southwest and sometimes JetBlue.

Credit Card Points

If you spend a lot of money on a credit card, one of the best ways to save on travel is with credit card points.  Many personal credit cards offer great travel perks in particular, especially if you spend on travel related expenses.  Furthermore, if you run a business or consulting service where you use a business credit card, you may be able to accrue point rewards which you can use personally for air travel.  Additionally, if you take airline points in lieu of business cashback, you are getting an even bigger bonus on your money since you are not paying taxes on the cashback.  Air travel credit card points are also alluring because they can make it much more affordable than cash to do something like fly in Business or First Class – cash prices are often two or three times the amount of the “price in points.”  Figuring out what your airline points are worth is something of a much discussed art, so be sure to figure out what you’re working with on a case by case basis.

Fractional Jet Ownership & Leasing

Many people are surprised to learn that there is such a thing as leasing or co-owning hours of time on private jets; timeshares for jets, in other words.  You don’t have to be Jeff Bezsos to show up to the airport in an Embraer (though you probably need a bit more money than most).  Fractional ownership and leasing enables flyers to pool their costs with other co-owners, and fly a certain number of hours a year on a private jet, often alongside other flyers, though in a much reduced capacity than a typical commercial flight.  While the cost can be greatly elevated from standard fares, it can be a good option for people who are limited on time and also have the capability to deduct flying costs.  Many operators are tight-lipped about cost due to the number of variables (domestic vs. international, number of hours needed, scheduling, aircraft type, etc).  Another benefit is the many more airports (~5,000) which can be accessed via these jets, outside of the standard 500 or so airports in the USA where commercial airlines fly to.

In Conclusion

Travel restrictions have been easing across the world, and with operators getting back into full swing, now is a great time to research flight deals before traffic levels return to normal.