Budget Travel FAQ – Updated: February 13, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions – Updated: February 13, 2014

Disclaimer: Everything here reflects my understanding and opinion of this industry and should be taken as such. If it’s wrong or inaccurate then leave a post.

Q: What days of the week are the cheapest to fly on?
A: Flights on Wednesdays are generally the cheapest, followed by Tuesdays and Saturdays. Some exceptions apply of course such as holidays, glitches and fare sales. The best answer to this in my opinion is: “The days when the fewest people are flying the route.”

Q: What days of the week are the best days to buy travel?
A: According to an article I read on FareCompare; Tuesday at 3:00PM. I don’t quite agree. The best answer to this in my opinion is: “When no one else is looking to buy.” So, Tuesday – Thursday during the day, but not during lunch hours. The weekends are almost always more expensive.

Q: Is it cheaper to buy airfare in the middle of the night?
A: No, not really. What I’ve noticed though is that the automated systems of many of the carriers change the prices between 11:00 PM – 2:00 AM Central Time. The price changes are usually not anything that exciting. It just looks like day to day operations.

Q: Why are flights so much more expensive than just a few years ago?
A: Many reasons. Airline consolidation; meaning less competition for routes out of Houston is one of the major reasons. As the airline industry merges and consolidates expect prices to rise more. The removal of competition from Continental really hurt prices. Another reason is that the price of jet fuel has increased by about 65% since 2006; a lot faster than inflation. Finally, Houston (IAH) is a United hub which means that the majority of flights served will be United / Non-Stop. United likes to charge more for Non-Stop flights which means the competing routes will also charge more.

Q: Are frequent flyer programs worth it?
A: Absolutely. One of the reasons why I’m an advocate of signing up for frequent flyer programs is because there are many ways to get free miles and points in those programs. For example: You can get a free round-trip flight to Europe / Asia on United right now by signing up for the United Explorer Card which will give you 30,000 Miles, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which will give you 40,000 points. The Sapphire card’s points are transferable to multiple frequent flyer programs on a 1:1 basis, making it very handy if you fly multiple carriers. There are also many other ways to get free miles without flying such as the United or Chase rewards online shopping malls. You should always be trying to accumulate miles / points because they can quickly add up into free travel.

These previous blog posts may provide additional perspective on frequent flyer programs:

Additionally you can see all of the miles and points articles by clicking the category link here or on the main page:

Q: Should I stick to one frequent flyer program or sign up for many?
A: Hard question to answer. If you don’t fly often enough to gain status in a frequent flyer program then you should sign up for one in each Airline Alliance; such as One World, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. That should cover the majority of carriers. The reason why I’m suggesting this is that if you’re trying to fly for as cheap as possible, you will most likely not be flying on just one airline all the time, instead you’ll be flying on whatever carrier is running the route at the lowest price. The goal here is to get as many miles as possible as cheaply as possible without spreading them between too many airlines. Build up miles with a few loyalty programs without sacrificing the flexibility that you need in order to get the lowest fare.

Q: How does signing up for one frequent flyer program in each Airline Alliance help me?
A: It allows you to accrue points / miles in just a few accounts. For example: United is part of the Star Alliance, which means you can use your United MileagePlus account number when booking a ticket on any of the Star Alliance partners and earn miles. There is no reason to sign up for both United’s program and also ANA’s; they’re both part of the same Alliance and you can earn United points while flying on ANA.

One thing to note: You may accrue less miles if you book directly on an Alliance partner. It depends on the fare code and what rules are in place for the itinerary. You’ll need to do some research on your own before you buy the ticket and see if the ticket has any restrictions on point / mile accrual.

You can generally get around that problem by booking the itinerary with the carrier that you have the frequent flyer program with. For example: United and American Airlines will route you through its partners via code-share flights that will usually not have any restrictions on point / mile accrual.

Q: I fly often enough to have status with a frequent flyer program. Is it a good idea to always fly on one airline so I can maintain status and perks?
A: Another hard question to answer. I’m of the opinion that unless you qualify for the highest level of status with an airline it’s not really worth it to be blindly loyal. By flying exclusively on one carrier or alliance you will miss out on some really awesome deals. However, if you do fly often enough to gain the highest level of status within a frequent flyer program the perks, bonuses and upgrades into first class make loyalty worthwhile.

Q: Which frequent flyer programs should I sign up for in each alliance?
A: Star Alliance: United. One World: American Airlines. SkyTeam: Delta. You should also consider signing up for Southwest Airlines because they are not part of any alliance and have no partners so you have no choice but to accrue points in their program for their flights.

Q: What’s your favorite Airline?
A: Continental. ­čśŤ Kidding!
On a more serious note, I would rank my top 10 like this:
[From favorite to least favorite.]

  1. Jet Blue
  2. Thai Airlines
  3. ANA
  4. United
  5. Virgin Atlantic / Virgin America
  6. British Airways
  7. American Airlines
  8. Southwest
  9. Delta
  10. US Airways

99. Spirit