How to find the cheapest fare? This is the only answer

Aviation

Rick Seaney, Special for USA TODAY- There is no secret to finding the cheapest airfare, but it’s worth talking about because many people neglect to do this one very simple step: Always compare airfares. That’s it — but here’s some proof.

1. The “cheapest airline” isn’t always the cheapest.

Take a look at these recent sale prices advertised by JetBlue and Southwest. Domestic fliers know both are good airlines with good fares, and some travelers play favorites because they know “their” airline always has the best deal. I’m here to say, it doesn’t, not always. Check out these one-way prices from August sales:

Houston to Boston

  • JetBlue: $89
  • Southwest: $132

Southwest does have the advantage of giving travelers a free checked bag but it does not balance out the fares in this instance and JetBlue is still cheaper. On the other hand, check out these other fares from the same sales which throws the advantage back to Southwest:

Chicago to New York

  • Southwest: $94
  • JetBlue: $149

2. Don’t necessarily fly the obvious choice.

Say you’re on the West Coast and like to travel to Hawaii. You know that Alaska and Hawaiian are obvious choices because they often have good deals to the islands. Do not assume those are your only choices, though; check out these round-trip fares for October:

Los Angeles to Honolulu

  • American: $548
  • Hawaiian: $548
  • United: $548
  • Virgin America: $548

Those matching fares are great news for frequent-flier program members who may not have thought their airline would come close to the best deal. By the way, in this particular instance, Alaska’s price was $618.

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3. A nation’s flagship airline does not always have the best deal.

Say you’re heading to the United Kingdom. If you had to guess which country’s carrier had the cheapest mid-October flight from New York to London, you’d probably guess wrong:

New York to London

  • British Airways: $693
  • Norwegian Air: $601
  • Turkish: $574

I can’t say it often enough: Compare fares. By the way, Southwest only offers its fares on its website, so after searching your favorite fare comparison site for domestic orCaribbean trips, stop there too.

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