A few weeks ago, Southwest Airlines added yet another fee to its ever-expanding list of ala carte charges. Now, you’ll have to fork over $40 at the gate if you want to board the plane with the first group of passengers.
The discount carrier doesn’t offer assigned seats like United and American Airlines, but will bump you to the coveted group “A” boarding if you cough up the extra cash. The offer begins 45 minutes before the flight departs, though is only available if the slots are not filled by elite and business select passengers who pay upfront for the benefit of boarding first.
The move is a blow to budget-conscious travelers who want to get the most bang for their buck. After all, who wants to pay extra for benefits? Then again, who wants to pay more at all when they can pay the least amount possible to get to their vacation destination?
If you are looking to save on airfare, keep a close eye on the calendar. According to new research by CheapAir.com, the best time to book a domestic flight is 49 days in advance. If you’re flying internationally, you should book roughly 80 days out. For those who struggle with commitment, experts say you can still save on domestic flights provided you purchase your ticket at least two weeks in advance of your trip. If you wait longer than that you will pay a pretty penny. Or, more like thousands of pennies. Domestic flights that would normally cost less than $400 when booked two weeks in advance jump to about $625 when you wait until the last minute to pay.
The flipside to planning too far in advance is another hit to your wallet. According to CheapAir, travelers who booked 210 days before their departure date ended up paying nearly $100 more for a domestic ticket. The exception comes when you are booking for a high-traffic time, like Thanksgiving. In this case, CheapAir experts recommend booking 96 days in advance to get the most affordable airfare.