How to find senior airfare discounts
The Savvy SeniorJanuary 25, 2012 | 1,948 views | Post a comment
Dear Savvy Senior,
Do airlines still provide discounts to seniors on their airfares? My husband and I are retired and like to travel and are wondering which airlines offer the best discounts to budget-conscious seniors.
While senior airfare discounts are not nearly as common as they used to be, there are a handful of carriers that still offer them. Here’s a rundown of the different airlines that are currently offering senior airfares, along with some tips to help you find the best deals.
The only U.S. airlines that are currently offering senior airfare discounts are:
•Southwest, which has discounts on all domestic routes to passengers 65 and older. For details on fares, call 800-435-9792 or you can search online at southwest.com.
•American, which offers some senior fares to travelers 65 and older on their American, American Eagle, and American Connection domestic flights. Call 800-433-7300 to find out which flights offer these discounts. You cannot search specifically for senior airfares on American’s aa.com website.
•United has some discounts on select flights to those 65-plus but they are few and far between. To search for them, visit united.com and select “child or senior” from the dropdown menu. When the site returns your fare quote, the results for your search will indicate the type of discount you are receiving, if one is available. You can also call 800-241-6522 to find out if a senior discount is available for a particular flight.
•Continental, which is merging with United in a few months, has senior discount fares as well on very few flights to passengers 65 and older. To search, visit continental.com and click on “Advance Search” to access the “seniors” category, or call 800-523-3273.
•Delta has senior discounts that vary by age and apply only to flights from three Latin American nations -- Panama, Honduras, and Ecuador. Call 800-241-4141 to inquire.
When shopping for cheap plane tickets, it’s important to know that many of the airlines’ regular discount fares or online specials are usually cheaper than the senior discount fares. So, to ensure you get the best price available, you need to compare prices and options from all carriers.
To help you do this, your best resources are online travel sites like orbitz.com, travelocity.com, and kayak.com. These sites will let you search for the lowest-priced flights on all the different airlines at the same time. They will not, however, let you search for senior fares.
Once you find a flight with the lowest fare that fits your schedule, look up similar flights on the different airlines that offer senior fares (Southwest, American, United, Continental, and Delta) and compare. You can do this either online at their respective websites (with exception of American and Delta), or by calling their reservation department number. This will ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Another tip that can help you save is to be flexible when you travel. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are typically the three cheapest days of the week to fly, while Friday and Sunday are the most expensive. And the cheapest time to fly is typically the first flight out in the morning.
The day of the week you purchase your tickets can also affect the price. Airlines usually post their lowest domestic fares on Tuesday at 3 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. Sales typically last three days so you stand a decent chance of getting bargains on Wednesday and Thursday too.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://SavvySenior.org.
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