Finding cheap flights requires more than just “asking” Kayak or Priceline. Kayak and Priceline—and other booking websites—are merely tools for finding the cheapest flights. Just like using a hammer or saw, the power of the tool depends on the ability of the user.
Being able to look for add-on fares is another skill to add to your travel skills tool box.
Below are three examples of add-on fares and how to save money, time, and stress with them. It is an excerpt from my book, Winning the Airfare Game, published in 2001.
Foreign airlines usually fly only from major gateway cities like New York and Los Angeles. Instead of buying a separate round-trip ticket to a gateway city to get a low transoceanic fare, save money with their add-on fare.
A major foreign airline offers flights to Cairo from New York for $500. They do not fly from any other U.S. city. They charge $550 to fly from Chicago and contract the Chicago-to-New York flights to another airline. Passengers pay less by using the add-on option instead of buying a separate Chicago-to-New York round-trip flight. Unfortunately, the $50 flight is not available by itself.
Another type of add-on fare is for travelers buying cruises and packages. These add-on fares are usually good values because cruise and package suppliers negotiate volume discounts with the airlines. Add-on flights for cruises and packages are usually with certain carriers and for specific flights, which may be inconvenient; for example, a connecting flight instead of a non-stop flight. Always see if there is a less expensive or more desirable flight; you may want to redeem a frequent flyer award, use a certain carrier, or take advantage of a stopover to visit friends.
Companies offering add-on flights assume the risk of delay or cancellation. They must make arrangements to meet the ship, tour, or flight. However, passengers are responsible when independently arranged flights do not arrive in time to meet the ship, tour, or other flight. Consumers can minimize this risk with travel insurance.
Flights connecting to longer flights are a third type of add-on fare that can save you money (or provide luxurious service). For one trip, the best value between Sydney and Cairns, Australia was on a Qantas flight that continued to Tokyo. The Sydney-to-Cairns flight is usually not crowded as Qantas is simply repositioning the 747 aircraft for the long Cairns-to-Tokyo flight. There were only a handful of passengers and I ended up in Business Class; actually, I requested a seat close to the front and was accidentally, I think, given a Business Class seat assignment. U.S. examples include Varig flights between Washington, DC and Miami (continuing to Brazil) and United flights between San Francisco to Los Angeles (continuing to South America).