Beyond Google Flights

Post originally Published February 25, 2024 || Last Updated February 26, 2024

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Beyond Google Flights - Leverage Airline Sites for Deals

Beyond Google Flights

While metasearch engines like Google Flights cast a wide net, don't overlook booking directly through airline sites. Airlines want to fill seats, so they'll often have sales and deals you won't find on third-party sites.

By searching and booking directly on airline sites, you can uncover discounts and incentives not available elsewhere. For example, Delta frequently offers web-only sales with discounts up to 30% on domestic flights and 15% internationally. American Airlines also routinely has online specials.

Sign up for airline email alerts and you'll get notifications about flash sales and limited-time promotions. Act fast, as the best fares sell out quickly. Set calendar reminders too - airlines tend to discount tickets on certain days, like Continental's Tuesday Travel Deals.
Check both the main airline site and regional portals. For instance, United offers specials on, but unique deals can also pop up on sites like

Don't just look at the airlines you normally fly either. Search across multiple carriers, even ones you wouldn't think to check. I often find the cheapest rates on airlines I rarely consider.

Partner award sales are another opportunity. Alaska Airlines routinely has deals on Emirates redemptions, as the two are partners. Availability is limited, but the discounts can be substantial if you act fast.
Purchase directly on the airline site and you'll also have a direct line for changes or issues later on. No need to go through Expedia or another third-party. Plus on many airlines your frequent flyer miles won't credit if you book via an OTA.
When buying directly, don't just take the first fare you see. Try different dates, nearby airports, and booking one-way versus roundtrip. With a bit of searching, you can often do better than the default price.

What else is in this post?

  1. Beyond Google Flights - Leverage Airline Sites for Deals
  2. Beyond Google Flights - Use Metasearch Sites for Wider Net
  3. Beyond Google Flights - Check Discount Carriers Separately
  4. Beyond Google Flights - Don't Overlook Alternative Airports
  5. Beyond Google Flights - Consider Nearby Cities for Better Fares
  6. Beyond Google Flights - Track Prices with Fare Alerts
  7. Beyond Google Flights - Use Miles to Book Awards

Beyond Google Flights - Use Metasearch Sites for Wider Net

Cast a wider net with metasearch sites like Google Flights, Kayak, and Skyscanner to uncover fares you may miss booking directly. These aggregators pull data from hundreds of sources, including both airlines and online travel agencies. With a few clicks, you can instantly search across countless flight options.
I routinely find lower fares on metasearch engines versus going to a specific airline site. They're excellent for price comparisons, letting you see who has the cheapest rates for your route. For popular destinations, scanning multiple sources is key - the lowest fare may not be on your preferred airline.

Unlike airline sites that primarily focus on their own inventory, metasearch displays options across carriers. You can easily see if American or United has a better deal for your Chicago to Phoenix trip. Saving even $20 each way adds up, especially for a family.
Metasearch excels at exposing error fares too. These are rare instances where airlines accidentally publish ridiculously low fares. Scott's Cheap Flights built their entire business model around error fare alerts. But you can also stumble upon them yourself browsing metasearch engines, if you get lucky.
Flexibility is another advantage. If you don't have set plans, metasearch makes it easy to compare prices across dates and nearby airports. Perfect for finding the cheapest option if your travel is open.
For complex itineraries, metasearch simplifies constructing multi-city or stopover trips. You can build an entire around-the-world journey with ease. Try that on a single airline site and you'll be endlessly opening and closing tabs.

Of course, metasearch isn't perfect. Results don't always accurately reflect availability, especially for partner award bookings. I frequently see flights listed that aren't actually bookable. Metasearch is best for research and price comparison.
Once you've identified the ideal flight, go to the airline site to purchase. This guarantees you're getting the fare you want. Booking directly also makes managing your reservation easier later on.
Pro tip: open an incognito browser window when searching metasearch sites. Like airline sites, metasearch engines use cookies to personalize fares. Searching incognito prevents your previous activity from impacting results.

Beyond Google Flights - Check Discount Carriers Separately

While the major airlines can offer deals, don't sleep on the budget carriers that are reshaping the industry. Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant advertise ridiculously low base fares that undercut legacy airlines, sometimes by hundreds per ticket. However, to get those prices you must avoid all amenities and be willing to pay extra for things like seating assignments or bringing more than a personal item bag.

These ultra-low-cost carriers operate entirely online and extract revenue from ancillary purchases rather than the fare itself. Make sure to thoroughly review all add-ons before booking to avoid unexpected charges later. Carefully consider if you're willing to potentially standby for an open seat. At the same time, many leisure travelers are perfectly content with the no-frills experience if it means flying cross-country for under $100 each way.

A key to budget airline success lies in scouring their sites directly and avoiding third parties. It's common for online travel agencies to tack on hefty booking fees that eliminate much of your savings. I once compared a Frontier fare quoted on Expedia for $199 roundtrip to the same flight booked directly through Frontier for $89 total! The airline sites also offer more dynamic pricing that adjusts with demand. You must be diligent in constantly checking for fluctuations.

New routes are continuously added by discounters chasing yields. It pays to check them frequently for openings between your home airport and destinations you desire. Just last fall, I discovered Spirit launched nonstop flights from my local hub to an airport thirty minutes closer to relatives I visit each holiday season. The direct service saves hours versus connecting through a major city. If dates align, it provides a significant quality of life improvement.

Beyond Google Flights - Don't Overlook Alternative Airports

Alternative airports are typically smaller regional facilities. They cater primarily to local traffic instead of connections. Legacy airlines fly limited routes, so budget carriers fill the void with bargain service. Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit go where the yields are, not where majors dominate.

My home airport is Chicago O’Hare, a behemoth American and United hub. But when I need to visit family in Ohio, I’ll fly out of Chicago Midway instead. Though farther from home, I can routinely get to Cleveland for at least $100 less per ticket.

Midway is dominated by Southwest, which fiercely competes on price. Most major destinations out of Midway also have Spirit service. Between the two, I can almost always find a sub-$100 fare to cities like Nashville, Atlanta, Denver or Dallas. Out of O’Hare, those same routes run $250 or more for legacy non-stops.
When I need to get to Florida, Allegiant opens up a wealth of low-cost Sunshine State options out of smaller airports like Rockford or South Bend. Flying from Fort Myers to Memphis, I might pay $500+ for a Delta hop through Atlanta. Or I can drive 3 hours roundtrip to South Bend and fly Allegiant direct for under $200 total.

Sacramento residents avoid pricey San Francisco flights by crossing the bay to Oakland. Orange County replaces overpriced LAX for savvy Southern Californians. Washingtonians drive down to Baltimore/Washington International to bypass spendy Dulles and Reagan National.

You’re essentially exchanging time for money, but the tradeoff can be well worth it. Road trips have their own charm too. I love exploring new small airports, people watching at the gate, and chatting up fellow bargain hunters. Saving enough for a nice meal or extra hotel night makes the longer drive palatable.

Some pro tips: research rental cars/long-term parking ahead of time for the best rates. Calculate total travel time door-to-door, including connections, to ensure you come out ahead. Consider elite airline status benefits that might be lost flying from alternate airports. Enroll in TSA PreCheck to speed security at smaller airports.

Beyond Google Flights - Consider Nearby Cities for Better Fares

Expanding your airport options to include nearby cities can unlock substantial savings, often hundreds less per ticket. While it requires some additional effort, the fare difference frequently justifies the extra drive. Here are real-world examples of nearby city deals travelers have leveraged to cut costs.

A family of four from Portland planned a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Flying nonstop from Portland, the cheapest fare they found was $483 roundtrip per person. However, the savvy family decided to make the 3-hour drive to Seattle and fly out of Sea-Tac instead. This opened up new options on Delta through their Salt Lake City hub, and they booked the entire family for just $328 roundtrip each! With four tickets, they saved nearly $800 in airfare after accounting for gas and parking.
A Denver woman travelled frequently to visit her ill sister in Phoenix. She routinely paid $350 or more for the 2-hour nonstop flight on United or Southwest. During one trip search, she expanded her options to include nearby Colorado Springs airport, just 1.5 hours south of Denver. She was thrilled to discover new ultra-low-cost Frontier service from Colorado Springs direct to Phoenix for only $98 roundtrip! Even after adding $20 in gas, she slashed her usual airfare cost by over 60%.

A Baltimorian planning his buddy's Las Vegas bachelor party typically flew direct out of BWI for around $400. When he expanded his search to include Washington-Dulles, just 45 minutes away, he found cheaper connecting options on American through DFW for $325. Factoring in mileage, he saved enough on the five guys' flights for an extra round of craps at the Palazzo.
A man in Raleigh frequently visited family in Los Angeles. Nonstop flights on Delta or American from RDU ran a costly $475 roundtrip. On a whim he searched flights out of Greensboro, NC just 90 minutes west. He discovered new Allegiant nonstop service to LAX for just $298 total! Even after accounting for gas and parking, he slashed $150 off each trip.

Beyond Google Flights - Track Prices with Fare Alerts

One of the most powerful, yet overlooked tools for finding flight deals is setting up fare alerts. Rather than manually searching over and over, alerts notify you automatically whenever prices drop on your preferred routes. This frees you from having to constantly check yourself and ensures you never miss a window of opportunity.
Fare alerts are absolutely essential for scoring the lowest fares. Airlines are dynamic pricers, constantly adjusting rates based on supply and demand. Sales pop up sporadically, sometimes lasting just hours or a day or two before selling out or expiring. The only way to catch these brief deals is by getting instant notifications the moment they appear.

For instance, Sarah was planning a trip to Hawaii over the holidays to visit family and wanted the best rates. She signed up for alerts on Google Flights and Hopper for the dates she was considering. One Tuesday evening she got a Google Flights email that United had a 24 hour sale with fares to Honolulu down to just $398 roundtrip. She quickly jumped online and booked tickets before the sale ended at midnight. Without the alert, she would have missed out on saving over $200 per ticket.
Robert swears by fare alerts after scoring an amazing deal to Europe thanks to a perfectly timed notification. He was flexible on dates and airlines, looking for the lowest fare from Chicago to Paris. An alert informed him Delta had mistake business class fares for just $849 roundtrip, an absurdly cheap price confirmed to be bookable. Robert feels alerts "put the odds of finding crazy low fares heavily in your favor."

Alerts also help track price drops if you have fixed travel dates. Mark needed to fly Seattle to Nashville and back for a friend's wedding. Nonstop fares started around $412. Through Alaska Airlines alerts, he monitored prices daily. A few weeks out, he got an alert that fares dropped to $332 roundtrip for his exact travel dates, saving $160.

Beyond Google Flights - Use Miles to Book Awards

Using frequent flyer miles and points to book award tickets allows travelers to experience destinations they may not otherwise be able to afford. By leveraging loyalty currencies accumulated through everyday spend or sign-up bonuses, many have accessed flights and stays that are well beyond what cash prices alone can provide.

Jenna had been diligently banking Alaska Mileage Plan miles through her credit cards and occasional flying for work trips. When she heard friends raving about Bali, she checked award charts and was thrilled to find space for a business class ticket from Seattle to Denpasar on partner Cathay Pacific for only 95,000 miles roundtrip. The cash price would have been well over $3,000 for those coveted lie-flat seats. During her trip, Jenna upgraded to the Ritz-Carlton using earnings from a sign-up bonus, treating herself to an unforgettable birthday getaway she doesn't feel she could have otherwise experienced.
Troy runs a small business in Denver and travels frequently between there and San Francisco for meetings. Flying Frontier or paying out of pocket has been his go-to, but the constant delays and cramped seating were wearing him down. By pooling United miles he had accrued through a credit card, Troy booked premium seats on the convenient southwest flight instead. Now, he enjoys spacious leather seats and the loyalty of taking United each time, easily justifying the annual fee for the card which helped him achieve this level of service.
Families in particular gain remarkable value using miles creatively. With four children in tow, Jennifer and Tom were excited yet overwhelmed at the prospect of a Disney World vacation from their Chicago home. By scouring award availability and using miles earned from years of regular expenditure, the family of six booked flights on a partner airline for only 160,000 miles total. Factor in the thousands they saved on airfare, and it meant resources freed up for creating lifetime memories at the most magical place on earth without breaking their travel budget.

See how everyone can now afford to fly Business Class and book 5 Star Hotels with Mighty Travels Premium! Get started for free.