Here's some sound advice for anyone looking for cheap student airfare: Be careful. This topic might seem like a departure from the college loan theme; but travel expenses can add considerably to the cost of a college education.
Student Airfare Costs
Students may travel great distances to attend their colleges or universities. In this article, we're going to separate fact from fiction when it comes to student airfares. We're also going to explain where to find real savings when it comes to travel expenses.
Unfortunately, most airlines continue to view students as just another passenger on the plane. In fact, while looking around for possible solutions to the high cost of student airfare, none of the airlines offered a special program of reduced or lower airfare for students attending college.
At first, reduced fares seem like an obvious offering to college students. After all, this is a segment of the population that is traveling out of necessity. These trips are not vacations or meetings with prospective business associates. These are students traveling to a college or university; the location would have balanced cost, enrollment acceptance, and course offerings.
Unfortunately, one of the few discounts airlines offer are Bereavement or Condolence rates. These appear to be the only ongoing discount programs offered to individuals directly by airlines.
Alternatives to Cheap Airfares
Regrettably, most websites will offer claims of discounts, but merely direct visitors to one of the many travel agencies already doing business on the web. Fortunately, there are alternatives to discounts.
Frequent Flier Programs
One way students can help reduce their airfare costs is by joining a frequent flier program. There is no need to delay signing up. In fact, it's even possible to join a program before attending school.
Major Airlines Frequent Flier Programs
The table above lists all of the major airlines, the names of their frequent flier programs, as well as links to their websites.
Finding the Right Program
Nearly every airport has an airline that specializes in travel to a given destination. For example, Newark Airport is a major hub for Delta Air Lines; it's possible to fly nearly everywhere in the world from Newark via Delta. Before joining a program, students should first be familiar with the airlines that have a robust travel schedule to their school.
Student Airfare Example
Let's say Ann's home is 1,500 miles from her college or university. At the very least, she will be making roundtrips in September, December, and May. In this example, let's assume she will make four round trips a year (we'll include Spring Break) for four years. That's 16 round trips at 3,000 miles each.
With a total of 48,000 frequent flier miles, and some help from the promotions airlines often run, Ann may be able to fund one or two trips through a frequent flier program. If she can get two trips out of the 16, that's equivalent to a 12.5% discount on her airfare.
Saturday Night Stays
Ever since the airlines were deregulated, they have an incredibly complex way of determining what airfare to charge passengers. In many ways, they practice discriminatory pricing. That means they target certain travelers, and try to maximize the airfare charged. One of the obvious targets is the business traveler. These customers are easy to identify because most business is conducted during the workweek: Monday through Friday. Here's where the Saturday night stay comes into play, and how staying over on Saturday can save on airfare costs.
Many business travelers want to return home on Friday night or Saturday morning, so they rarely stay over on a Saturday night. This allows airlines to charge higher airfares for business travelers. After all, their companies are picking up the cost of the flight. Students will almost always find less expensive airfare when they can take advantage of the Saturday night rule. Whenever possible, plan to stay over on a Saturday.
Airfare Tracking Systems
There are a large number of websites that offer travelers, including students, the ability to track movements of airfare, both up and down. Most of the larger travel sites will automatically send an email alert or text message when the price moves beyond a certain threshold.
Nearby Airports and Departure Dates
When looking for low airfares, remember to check nearby airports and vary the proposed departure dates too. For example, it might be possible to save money by flying out on a Friday instead of leaving on a Saturday.
Predicting Student Airfares
Trying to predict airfare prices is not easy. The algorithm used by airlines takes into account the number of seats left on the plane, and the days remaining until departure. In recent years, fuel prices have put upward pressure on costs too. This helps explain why airline prices change almost daily, and why predicting prices is so difficult.
As mentioned at the start, travel costs can add up; especially for students attending a college or university that requires travel by airplane. It's unfortunate that airlines don't offer discounts to students. This type of program would be an effective way to create lifelong customers.
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