The routes you fly most may be getting cheaper soon thanks to some competition the dominant airlines just can’t ignore.
Why fares are getting cheaper
American, United and Delta — the three full-fare airlines — have been able to raise fares higher and higher because they are controlling how many seats they have. All three specifically attract business travelers mostly.
At the same time, the three fastest growing airlines in the country are airlines you might not know much about, or maybe you’ve flown these guys and you hate them. They’re Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant. I call them hard discounters.
But the hard discounters are growing so fast, adding new planes, new routes and the fares are phenomenally cheap. Yet they’re also among the least popular airlines in the country, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data. For example, the second least popular airline is Frontier and they offer sale fares all the time starting at $39.
Sure, $39 may sound great, but that’s only the starting point. You want anything to eat or drink? You pay for it. You want to take a bag on board or check one? You pay for it. Whatever it is you want to do, you pay for it separately. If you learn how to fly by their rules, you’re really going to fly for $39 sometimes. So you want a cheap fare? You can really save, but you’re going to have to earn your savings.
But here’s the good news today: American Airlines is striking back and in markets where they compete directly with the three discounters, they will match them dollar for dollar.
The point is, the fares available to you are getting better and better regardless of who you fly in markets that have competition. In many cases, there may be an airport one hour away that has fares so low it may make sense for you to take the drive to save 80%.
If you’re searching for fares at a metasite like Kayak, you must click the button that says include nearby airports.
The sad fact is that everybody but Southwest Air — even longtime holdout JetBlue — now charges all kind of fees for checking a bag and maybe even carrying one on the plane! Know before you go!
For more money-saving advice, see our Travel section.