In Search of Cheap Seats

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, 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.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.