These days>, getting a good deal on airfare is as much about where you book as which airline you fly.
Airlines are offering more exclusive deals and discounts to travelers who do business directly through their web sites, instead of by phone or through a third-party travel agent site, such as Expedia (EXPE),
Struggling airlines are offering these deals in an effort to build customer loyalty and avoid paying commissions to other sites and companies for selling their airfares. "There s a lot of money to be made, and they want to be the ones making it, says George Hobica, the founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, a site that tracks prices on air travel.
Transactions conducted over the Internet also offer airlines cost savings because they don t require an employee like a ticket agent to take calls over the phone. Keeping people off the phone is so much operationally cheaper, says Rick Seaney, the chief executive of FareCompare.com, a web site that aggregates travel deals.
Of course, every fare is unique, and many third-party vendors can still undercut prices that appear on airlines web sites. Expedia eliminated its booking fees in June, and Orbitz and Travelocity have extended sales that waive their fees. Without those booking fees -- and with site sales in play -- travelers may still find cheaper prices than airlines are charging.
Keeping on top of the latest airline-exclusive deals is as easy as signing up for the frequent flier clubs and e-newsletters of the carriers you use. Be on the lookout for these five lures:
It s not unusual for airlines to offer weekly specials that trump offerings on third-party sites. WestJet, for example, is running a 50% off fare sale to select citiesFor more ways Twitter and Facebook can save you money, click here
Airlines have edged into the broader travel business. Buy a flight and now, they try to sell you a rental car, a hotel and travel insurance, too, Hobica says. Such packages offer substantial savings. For example, through July 31, Delta (DAL)
Promotions that push travelers closer to award travel keep them coming back, Seaney says. This spring, American (AMR)
Online retails aren t the only ones to offer coupon codes for a discount at checkout. Users who enter the code 75WESTIN at their checkout will save $75 on Southwest (LUV)
Discounts on Fees