6 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Searching for Flights

Flight Research Mistakes

1. Using Flights as Transportation.

Transportation is thought of as getting from point A to point B.

But what if you changed your thinking? Your flight is an awesome way to explore another city or attraction along the way!

For instance, let’s say you are flying into Italy.

Yes, you could take a direct flight there.

But what if you’ve always wanted to spend a day or two in Paris or London?

You can create your own long layover or stopover. You could arrive in Paris early in the morning, spend the night, and take a later flight the following day.

Why this is beneficial to you?

  • You get to explore new cities. It’s always fun to adventure into a city for a few hours or a day or two.
  • A less expensive flight could be available by searching out other destination airports.
  • Sometimes it pays to shop other destinations and fly into a different hub. Then spend some time there and take a regional plane to get to your destination.
  • For instance, I found a flight from London to Milan for less than $20!
  • Stay healthier by breaking up your longer flights. Sitting for hours takes a toll on your body. Many factors can contribute to your becoming ill. Fresh air will help your mind and body.
  • Cut jet lag. Including a layover before your destination will help with jet lag. Once of the best ways to beat jet lag is get out and walk. The more the better. It is healthier to take a break in your flight, move about and see some sights than spend the day you arrive in a stupor.
  • Indulge a bit. Icelandair recognized that the layover was a possible economic benefit. Thus, when you fly with that airline, you have an option for a nine hour layover. Now a nine hour layover may not sound enticing. But what if that layover includes a shuttle to their famous geothermal spa, the Blue Lagoon?

Photo by Blue Lagoon

2. Not Knowing Airline Hub Locations.

In the United States, the major airlines all fly out of their hub or hubs. They also may have a stronger presence where they have their headquarters.

For instance, American Airlines flies out of Dallas/Ft. Worth area along with Southwest Airlines

Delta

has its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia while

Frontier

is out of Denver, Colorado.

JetBlue has its headquarters in Queens, New York. JetBlue flies out of JFK airport.

Virgin America (acquired by Alaska Airlines) is in Burlingame, California, close to San Francisco.

United Airlines has its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. United has hubs in Denver, CO and Houston, TX. West Coast hubs are Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA. East Coast hubs are Newark, NJ and Washington, D.C. They also have hubs in Guam and Tokyo.

Are you thinking—bor-ring? Why do I ever need to know this? This knowledge is important because airlines with a hub presence have more flights.

This may often equate to cost savings for you. Knowing airline partners is also important. It comes into play if you are planning a trip abroad and want to maximize your miles. If you have an affinity with an airline, you can experience  comfort in their lounge. 

Knowing your airline's hub will often provide convenience if you are offered free upgrades such as TSA-Precheck, checked bags, etc.

Check out when is the best time to book flights with this interactive when to buy flights tool. 

Airline partners are where you'll find international travel carriers who'll accept or provide mileage awards.

Partnerships can help you to gain mileage points and to use miles for travel.  Find out about each airline's quality before you book through SkyTrax.

3. Being Loyal to Only One Airline. 

Frequent flier programs are an important asset.

Affinity programs allow you to choose the best flights for the cost you want and the amenities you desire. Thus, you may receive benefits by being a program member. Yet it is important to have more than one loyalty program.

For instance, I have affiliations with American Airlines and United Airlines. These are the carriers that I most often fly.

I also have a Frontier membership as it flies out of the airport I use.

You should have one to three airline memberships that work for your travel needs.

Your first airline should be one that has a hub close to you. This will be your primary loyalty account. It may offer lounge access or free checked bags.

Your next airline is your secondary choice. Use this airline should your preferred primary carrier does not have your desired route or the cost is less.

If you desire a third choice, this will be the regional carrier that flies out of your area.

Finally, you could also include a regional international carrier.

If you are an infrequent traveler, building an affinity with a particular airline may not be important. However, if you are working toward gaining miles and perks, focusing on one primary carrier that serves your area will help you reach your goal faster. 

4. Using Major Carrier over Regional Airlines.

There are more than 25 regional airlines carriers in the United States as of this writing. There are also regional carriers across the globe.

Now let’s look at why this is important through a study of Ryanair. Let’s say that you are going to visit London, England. You’ve got a bit of extra time so you decide that you’d like to also visit Italy.

Because you're a savvy woman traveler you know a regional carrier will cost less. You do your research.

You find that Ryanair flies from London to Milan. A quick search shows Ryanair with fares starting at $44. You check and find that the same trip on British airways would cost you $247. You just saved over $200!

Now, there is a caveat to this. You may not receive any frequent flier miles. So you will have to determine if this is the best choice for you.

That said, you should be getting most of your frequent flier miles apart from flying.

5. Choosing the Wrong Airport.

Ryanair flies from London. But London has four airports: Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted. Ryanair flies to Milan. Milan airports are Milan Bergamo, Milan Linate, Milan Malpensa.

Where I live in Colorado it costs me less to drive to Denver than it does to fly from my city’s airport. Often flights from my hub connect in Denver anyway. 

Austin, Texas is sometimes less expensive than traveling from San Antonio for Frontier flights.

Southwest flies into Chicago Midway instead of O’Hare. Flight routes often change. For instance, Southwest used to fly to Dulles instead of Reagan. It's now started offering service to Reagan. So check before booking. 

Whenever you search for flights, always include other airports within your area. The difference in cost can be quite significant. If traveling with family members, the cost savings may allow for another night at your destination.

Not only will you often save money, but you may save in the most valuable commodity that you have—time.

If you live by a smaller airport, flying out of that airport may increase the likelihood that you may have a connection. Non-stop flights can occur but may be less frequent.

At a larger hub, there are going to be more flights coming in and going out. If your flight has a cancellation or delay, you have more opportunity to catch another flight.

6. Searching for Round Trip Flights.

I used to be guilty of this common mistake. First, it’s good to check the round-trip cost as this gives you a baseline for flight cost. Then start searching.

On a trip to Atlanta, my daughter and I flew on one airline carrier. I was staying longer so my daughter flew back on my “secondary” carrier at much less cost and a non-stop flight. When I returned home, I took my primary carrier which had the best route, cost and amenities.

Each of these one-way flights cost less than the round trip flights for the same routes and times.

Research one way flights and add in a long layover or stopover.​

Save yourself aggravation, time and money by:

  1. Using flights to have more fun through long layovers or stopovers.
  2. Knowing airline hub locations but best direct flights.
  3. Having multiple airline affinity programs you can utilize.
  4. Using regional airlines to save money. 
  5. Picking the best airport for convenience, comfort and cost. 
  6. Searching for one-way trips along with round-trip pricing.

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About the Author Vikki Walton

Vikki Walton wishes she could come up with a great third person opening hook. Alas, she can't. Instead, the Girls Wanta Go Founder is a World Traveler and Work Quilter. She's a writer, speaker, instructor and house/pet sitter. Her introvert side loves nothing better than to hike, garden or cuddle up with a great book. Her extrovert side loves telling people what to do through the written and spoken word.