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Tips for Finding Great Flight Deals Online

August 2nd, 2013 Personal Finance

The internet has radically changed the way people shop for everything, including flights. However, while some sites promise the lowest airfares available, they may not be getting you the best possible price. The following tips may help you to find the best deals on flights possible.

When to book
Airlines are extremely competitive and tend to respond to each other's pricing, notes The Economist. Many will set their sales on Mondays after they have determined customer interest throughout the day, and once one airline sets its price, the rest may tend to follow. Because of this, looking for deals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, right after the airlines have set their fares for the week, can land some great deals.

It's generally good practice to book your flight about six to eight weeks before its scheduled takeoff, as there will not be much demand for those flights yet, excluding travel-heavy holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, if you can't get your tickets or don't finalize your travel date until closer to the flight, you may be better off waiting. Like hotels and cruise ships, airlines will be more interested in filling seats right before the flight than getting a good price for the ticket. If you are willing to take the risk, try searching for flights a few days before takeoff to get closeout deals, notes USA Today.

When to fly
Like booking your flights, it's often cheaper to fly on days that most people wouldn't. While this can be somewhat inconvenient, it can save you a lot of money to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays instead of flying closer the weekend. Mondays can be good, but if it's a three-day weekend, it's best to avoid this day, as it will likely be very expensive. Flying at more hours that are more inconvenient, like very early in the morning or late at night, can also result in better prices.

Social media
Websites like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way airlines relay deals to customers. Many airlines that are famous for offering deals like JetBlue and Southwest will use social media to attract customers to specific deals much faster than traditional advertising could. Keeping several airlines as Facebook friends or following them on Twitter may allow you to get spur-of-the-moment deals that won't last very long.

These websites can also link you to valuable promotional codes that can take a percentage off your ticket price. Some codes will offer free baggage or even an upgrade to first class. These codes can be found via social media outlets or on the sites of the airlines themselves. These promotional codes are almost always exclusive to certain airlines.

Flight aggregators 
There are a few websites that will help collect and sort airfares for you. One of the most well-known of these is Kayak.com, which will seek out good prices. However, airlines sometimes won't share their prices with these websites to avoid sharing the profits, according to SmarterTravel.com. While these sites can be a great place to start, they sometimes will not show the same deals that you would be able to find on the actual airline's website. Before booking your flight, check on the sites of the specific airline and see if they will offer you an even better deal than you would be able to find on the flight aggregator.