Did you know there's a way you can save big bucks on flights that seem like they're out of your price range?
United, American and Delta now control 3 out of every 4 seats in the U.S. Each of those airlines sets up what’s called a “fortress hub” where the airline is so dominant in a city that other airlines fear to tread. Then they use that monopoly position to jack up the fares.
For example, United has a fortress hub in Newark, Delta has one in Atlanta, and American has one in Dallas/Ft. Worth, among other places.
Use hidden city ticketing to beat the fortress hub system
Let’s say I want to fly from Cleveland to Newark. That ticket may be big bucks. But a ticket for Cleveland to Hartford with a plane change in Newark may be cheap.
So booking that second itinerary – and not getting back on the plane once I get to Newark -- has become the only effective way to deal with fortress hubs. This strategy is known as a "hidden city ticket," and it’s a technique that's been used by savvy travelers to fly on the cheap.
Of course, the number of people willing to research hidden city ticketing has historically been just a nuisance, not a sizable mass.
But that was then and this is now. A 20something named Aktarer came up with SkipLagged.com. His site helps you ferret out all the hidden city ticket deals without having to do the research. Skiplagged essentially makes mastering hidden city ticketing a breeze, though it's entirely possible to do it on your own without the website's help if you're willing to put in the time and energy.
One side note: If you do plan to try hidden city ticketing, keep the following in mind: You should only book one way at a time, you shouldn't use frequent flier miles, and you shouldn't check in a bag because it will wind up in the final destination city.
As you might imagine, Skiplagged is getting into trouble with the bigs of the travel world. Both United and Orbitz have unsuccessfully tried to sue him, so this site is still up and running until further notice.
A word for international travelers
If you're flying somewhere and looking for an international deal, CleverLayover.com is a site you should know about.
The cheapest gateway cities to Europe include Boston, New York, Orlando's Sanford Field, Ft. Lauderdale, and San Francisco/Oakland. It often pays to buy one ticket to any of these cities and second ticket overseas. But of course that's a lot of legwork! CleverLayover does that for you and decodes for you how to cut the price of an international ticket by a third or more.
Meanwhile, Delta is step by step pulling the ability for you to compare their fares to any other airline. They're using the Southwest model where you have to shop only through their own website. Their fares aren't published to multi-fare search engines like Kayak and all the others.
So if you're flying Delta or Southwest, you need to additionally go to a Kayak or a competitor to compare prices from one airline to another. Google.com/Flights is a great search engine for this too.
Announcing new national travel deals and social media pages
Finally, you already love my Atlanta Travel Deals page. Now those outside of Atlanta can get a bargain too. My new National Travel Deals page reveals the day's hottest daily national and international travel bargains.