The price structure of an air carrier offering a scheduled service includes various types of fares. The structure is based on the premise that full economy fares (normally called "Y" fares in Canada and "coach" fares in the U.S.) must cover the cost of operating that service year round. On any one flight, different passengers will likely have paid different fares due to air carrier marketing strategies and the periodic need to stimulate additional air travel.
Full fares give passengers the most flexibility to book, change or cancel reservations. They have the fewest restrictions of all fares, but are the most costly. These fares may also be divided by class of service into "economy," "business" or "first class." They are designed for travellers who require flexibility, special amenities, such as larger seats and more leg room, or both.
Discount fares give passengers less flexibility to change or cancel reservations, but offer lower prices. The prices and terms and conditions applicable to these fares are based on market conditions, such as traffic volume, time of year and level of competition. These fares go under many different names or codes and have a variety of terms and conditions.
Many air carriers offer special discount fares for seniors, youths, unaccompanied children and very young children. Investigate fares thoroughly since they may come with special conditions that may not meet your needs.
If the fare meets your requirements, you should consider buying your ticket quickly, as the number of seats available at discounted fares can be limited and low fares may be available only for a short period. Remember, a price quote is only that, a quote. The price is not fixed until the ticket has been issued.
You can often get a less expensive ticket if you are flexible regarding the time and day of travel and the air carrier providing the flight. Check fares offered by all air carriers that serve a route. If you can reach more than one airport within a few hours' drive, you may save money or avoid long layovers by choosing one airport over another.
You may wish to do online fare searches, as many Internet travel sites have tools to help you find the lowest fares. Most of these sites will give you a list of flights available on selected dates, along with the fares available on those flights.
Travel Agents are excellent sources of information. They are aware of seat sales, last minute sell-offs and other low-fare initiatives offered by travel suppliers. As well, they are in a position to help travellers in other ways, such as arranging hotel, resort accommodations and ground transportation, including car rentals and tour packages. They can also provide assistance with insurance, passport and visa applications, and information on immunization and other foreign travel requirements.
To get the lowest possible fares:
Begin your fare research early to be aware of options.
Reserve your ticket as soon as your travel dates are firm.
Be prepared to alter your travel dates as some discounted fares require a Saturday night stay or a minimum stay of two to three days.
Consider flying on certain days of the week or at particular hours of the day when fares are normally lower.