You are here

Shopping for airfare deals

Share this page

You want the best deal for your next flight, but the choices can be overwhelming. Will you book directly on an airline’s website, or buy through a site that lets you compare costs across multiple airlines? These tips will help you weigh your options and avoid surprises you didn’t bargain for.

On cost comparison sites, what seem like apples-to-apples comparisons may not be – if baggage or other fees aren’t included. Cost comparison sites can also charge you more than the airline’s fees for services like changing or canceling a flight. When you make a reservation for a flight that is at least a week away, the airline must allow you to cancel for free within the first 24 hours after booking, but you could still be charged if you didn’t book directly with the airline.

Having a reservation is not the same as having a ticket. Normally, you make your reservation and then the airline issues a ticket, but things can go wrong. We’ve heard from people who used unfamiliar booking sites and learned at the airport that they did not have a ticket to fly. People also have told us that small errors like misspelled passenger names caused big headaches. Some people had to pay fees to fix mistakes, and some even missed their flights.

If you’re thinking of using an unfamiliar booking site to reserve tickets, first look for reviews and ratings of the site to make sure it’s reputable. You can search the site’s name with words like “complaint,” “review,” or “scam.”


  • consider fees as you comparison shop, and take change and cancelation policies into account
  • check cost comparison and airline sites to find the best overall deal, and keep in mind that some airlines only book directly
  • confirm directly with the airline well before the day of your flight that you have a ticket and everything is in order

If you have a complaint about booking a flight, report it to the Department of Transportation and to the FTC.


The booking sites, regardless if hotel, cars or airfares never give the whole story. I only use them for comparison. Many pitfalls with the booking sites, some worse than others.

Airlines are the worst when it comes to their treatment of the elderly population who are not bona fide "disabled". While the cost for an economy ticket has gone up in spite of falling price of jet fuel, they have decreased leg space and width of the seats, both not very user friendly for the elderly.Capitalism is different from greed.

What a timely posting. Is that true 'the airline must allow you to cancel for free within the first 24 hours after booking'? I just booked a flight, and United website said that I can cancel for free, but SouthWest said I can only 'changed the trip to a future date', and that is because I chose a cheaper ticket price ('wanna get away')?

If you have questions about your experience, please talk with the carrier and Department of Transportation.

True experience is the best teacher

Yeah i use the site for comparison then check the airline. most of the time its cheaper.

We booked a flight through a booking-site. When we had to cancel those tickets the site wanted $200 each way, per ticket! What a surprise!

I too booked a flight and something came up and I had to cancel. The flight was $263, and they charged me $118 to cancel. What a racket.

Its a thought to schedule a flight after an aggravating situation, then times when u need it most and cannot afford the sky ways. That's what I found most people suffer is the high cost of travel and low income.

I had to cancel a comparison sites trip due to illness besides 200 fee I could not get a refund of the residual ticket amount paid. I fought the airline and ticketing site for a month. They won. I'll never use a ticketing site ever again in my life period.

Spirit Airlines charged $80 each for 2 tickets to change the date literally 5 minutes after I booked them. This was in 2008. Was the no fee policy in effect then?

Great post! I also learned that instead of roundtrip, choose multi-cities especially if there are promos. The tendency of selecting roundtrip tickets is that only one can be booked in low price, but if multi-cities, you can have both

Hello! How are you doing? Thank you very much. This is a great idea. May, they try to scam people for more or the system problem.

I just can't afford any of it anymore.

I will online fare for my reference only and will go book with travel agents. We do need to support small business and have small business people alive.

I call the new smaller planes with the tiny plastic seats and the one half of a tray the "collusion" planes. And whatever happened to that investigation about airlines colluding on their pricing?

I was diagnosed with an illness two days before my flight and had to cancel and stay at home to get treatment for two weeks. Southwest would not refund my money and would only allow a credit. I am contesting that with FTA now. It is likely that with the illness, they would not have allowed me to travel.

thanks for share post hear information

Leave a Comment