Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies
Planning Your Air Travel
Traveling by air offers you a multitude of choices. With a little research and by asking the right questions when you have the airline on the phone, you should be able to find a reasonable airfare that meets with your travel schedule and study plans.
There may be many different prices for the exact same seat on an airplane. Each airfare is identified by a different code letter, i.e.: Q, L, V, B, Y, etc. Each letter code has different prices and different rules attached to it. For example, a Q fare may be a 30 days advanced purchase ticket which requires you fly Monday through Thursday, and stay a Saturday night. The guiding principle of all airfares is that the lower the fare, the more restrictions there will be, including high cancellation penalties.
Charter flights may be less expensive than regularly scheduled fares, but they can be risky, too. If you book a charter flight, make sure the company you book with has an escrow account where your money stays until your trip is completed. This will offer you some protection if the charter company goes belly up before you've returned home.
Excursion fares to Europe might be an answer for you, but these are loaded with restrictions, one being you must purchase your ticket anywhere from 21 to 30 days prior to departure. You must usually stay a minimum of 7 days, and no more than 60 to 90 days. Plus, a safe bet is that you'll be penalized for changes made before and during your trip.
You should telephone at least three, maybe more airlines to shop around for a good fare. The best time to call an airline is usually early morning or late at night.
Write everything down - the airline, the name of the clerk, the date and time you called, the flight numbers, times and the cost. Find out if the flight is nonstop, direct, or requires a connection. If you cannot find a nonstop or direct flight, try to make your connecting flights with the same airline.
Make sure you allow yourself enough time between flights if you need to change planes. It is not advisable to book a flight with less than 45 minutes for you to disembark and find the new gate. Airport security measures can bog you down when changing planes.
Airfares are subject to change without notice, but once you pay for your ticket the airline cannot make you pay more if there is a fare increase. If the price of your ticket in the same letter class goes down you may be eligible for a refund. Changing your flights and rearranging your schedule for a slightly less airfare may be more trouble than you think, considering that change penalties may apply.
There are many good reasons to purchase your ticket with a credit card, one being that it will be easier to get a refund if your flight is canceled. American Express offers free flight and baggage insurance when you use the card to charge your airline ticket.
Many airlines allow you to get your seat assignment, boarding pass, and meal request ahead of time, some up to 90 days in advance. If you are traveling at holiday time, or at peak vacation times, having your seat assignment and boarding pass early will help save you time in checking in at the airline counter.
If you've purchased your ticket through a travel agency, try to pick up your ticket at least two weeks prior to departure. Have the travel agent secure your seat assignment and boarding pass when booking your flight.