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Should You Trust Sites Promising Incredible Flight Deals?

It may be tempting to jump at affordable airfare sold via a third-party site, but are there cons to not booking directly with an airline?

As air travel—and travel in general—continues to rebound, we’re all looking to save money any way we can. The increase in flight prices has frustrated many travelers as they seek out pre-pandemic prices with no luck. Unfortunately, we may see these higher prices for a few more years, but all is not lost. That’s where flight deals come in.

Flight deals are simply discounted fares on very specific routes, typically advertised and shared through third-party websites. Of course, as with anything that sounds too good to be true, there are downsides to using the low-price options, too. But either way, we want to equip you with all the necessary information you’ll need before deciding on whether to purchase a flight deal.

Where to Find Flight Deals

These days, there are several websites and apps specifically dedicated to flight deals. A few standouts include The Flight Deal, Fare Deal Alert, Airfare Spot, and Secret Flying—all of which are free to use and don’t require a subscription. If you don’t mind paying for a subscription, Scott’s Cheap Flights is very popular as well.

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Other websites that come in handy when looking for cheap flights are Skyscanner, Hopper, and Google Flights.

The four free sites listed typically post new deals several times each day, and they are broken down into different regions to help you find flights closer to your home airport. Scott’s Cheap Flights takes things up a notch by sending customizable deals based on the regions you ask for. 

Skyscanner is often raved about, but you must use caution as many of the prices that are pulled through its search engine are usually outdated—which can become frustrating after a while. Google Flights, on the other hand, is a great backup tool to double-check price accuracy from any of the websites mentioned.

The Pro of Booking Flight Deals

The obvious reason to book flight deals is to save money. Depending on the destination, season, and your departure city, you can find deals with an average savings of $300-$500—and sometimes much more. What usually happens is airlines will block off a limited number of seats on specific flights and drop the price significantly in hopes of getting them sold faster. But once that block is sold, that’s it. The prices increase instantly.

Another plus to using third-party sites is most of the work involved in searching for these deals is out of your hands. The websites have people in the background who can run certain code against airline websites, and it pulls these discounted fares as soon as they pop up. The only real work you have to do is check your email or the websites daily to see if something you like comes up. Oh, and of course, you’ll want to read any fine print, too, because some deals come with restrictions, and you’ll want to be aware of them before you finalize your booking.

The Cons of Booking Flight Deals

Speaking of rules and restrictions, yes, there are some important ones you’ll want to remember. The biggest being, flight deals expire very fast. As mentioned above, the discounted price is only reserved for a limited number of seats on each route, and once they are sold, prices will go back to normal. This can happen in a few days or even in a few hours—it really depends on how great the deal is. It’s best to start saving an emergency travel fund if you don’t already have one, so you can purchase on a whim if needed.

The second-biggest consequence of flight deals is that you won’t always be able to find one for a specific date, so you’ll need to be flexible. The third-party sites will show a date range–for example, it may say, “deal only valid for early March into late April.” If you have an idea of when you’d like to take a vacation, you can likely find something to fit that. But, if you’re looking to travel on a specific date—let’s say your birthday or anniversary—you may be out of luck. However, you can probably find something within that week if you’re aiming to get the lowest price.

Not all flight deals include checked luggage, so you’ll want to try to be team carry-on if possible. Since the fares are deeply discounted, airlines may try to make up some of that with luggage fees. International checked bags can be up to $75 one-way, so if you want to ensure that purchasing your deal wasn’t in vain, pack light.

Finally, while you can oftentimes make your final purchase through the actual airline—meaning you only use the third-party website as a guide to finding the low-price fares—there will be some instances that you will need to finalize things through Expedia or Priceline. The downside of this is if there is an issue with your reservation or you need to change something on your ticket, you may have a harder time getting in contact with a representative. Where you can, try to find the deal through the advertised airline’s website, so you know that you will be fully protected in most instances—except, of course, if it’s a non-refundable or basic economy ticket.