I frequently get asked about how to find last-minute flights for as cheap as possible. Below are my top tips.
Hidden City Travel– First you should read the cost-benefit analysis of hidden city travel. It can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars, but it comes with risks. You will find the most savings traveling to large hubs. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, you can use Skiplagged’s explore feature. Just enter in your home airport and your dates, and it will show the cheapest places to fly for those dates.
Priceline Express Deals– Express Deals require a roundtrip itinerary but can save you 40-60% on a last-minute flight. The big downside is that you do not know exactly what flight you will be on when you book. Priceline will only give you very limited information such as “a flight leaving between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with one layover of less than 3 hours.”
- Hopper, which is a mobile app, also offers “Secret Deals,” but only on a limited number of airlines (Air Canada, LATAM, Turkish, WestJet, Copa and Air China)
Not Southwest– Southwest Airlines almost always doubles the price of their flights within 14 days of departure, so Southwest will not be a good option 95% of the time for last minute flights.
Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers– Many times ultra-low-cost carriers such as Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit offer great last minute deals when their planes are not at capacity. (JetBlue also offers cheap deals when their planes are not at capacity)
Momondo- Momondo compiles prices from several different travel agencies and sometimes those agencies have access to unpublished deals or lower fares.
Using Points for Last Minute Flights
Many times award space will open up fairly close to departure. However, some programs charge a “close-in booking fee.” The programs below don’t charge the fee and could be a good option for last minute travel.
British Airways Avios– You can use Avios to book American or Alaska Airlines if there is saver award space. This allows you to avoid American Airlines $75 fee for an award booked within 21 days.
Aeroplan- You can book on United Airlines and avoid United’s $75 close in booking fee by using Aeroplan points.
Alaska- Alaska does not charge a close-in booking fee and you can book on either Alaska or American using their points.
International Trips- Airlines usually open a good amount of long-haul award space within 14 days of departure. You do need to be flexible since you might have to travel from a different international gateway or on a different date.