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Airfare savings
Budget airlines

These are airlines in Canada and the U.S. that feature budget fares.

Other airlines may match, but these lead the way.

Some, like Air Canada, discount best on their busiest routes; others, such as JetBlue and Southwest, offer system wide savings. And some, like Southwest, even cap their maximum rate on each route. You'll never have to pay thousands of dollars at the last minute using Southwest.

The budget airlines in North America

1. Air Canada budget service on its major routes should not to be confused with more expensive Air Canada service to smaller centres. Great deals between major Canadian cities, including attractive single/one-way fares.

Be sure to compare Air Canada fares with WestJet mentioned below.
It's where these two airlines compete that you get the best deals.

2. AirTran—features low fares that do not require a roundtrip purchase or a Saturday night stay.

AirTran also offers travellers between 18 and 22 years old cheap standby fares, with its AirTran U programme—currently, the only airline to offer standby fares in the U.S.

Its stock price reflects its popularity, but in the past, Dr. Voyageur received complaints of chronic delays and of periodic rude service.

Apparently, the customer service situation has significantly improved. In its 2008 report, the Airline Quality Rating, sponsored in part by the University of Nebraska, ranked AirTran as number one. Of course, competition in on-time performance, denied boardings, mishandled baggage, and customer complaints has been profoundly weak in the U.S. lately!

On its most popular routes, AirTran's competitors often match its fares (other than standby)

3. Alaska Airlines, a favourite in customer service polls, has lots of low cost service between California or Arizona and Oregon or Washington and within California and even some transcontinental routes. An excellent airline.

4. Continental Airlines has greatly improved its service on routes out of Newark Airport near New York City and from its hubs in Cleveland and Houston in recent years. Of the older U.S. airlines, Continental may have the best service.

For example, Continental is the sole carrier still to serve regular free meals in the U.S. (on longer flights).

Highly recommended on the routes where it offers low fares. Continental is not afraid to compete with Southwest on some routes, which benefits all travellers.
Sadly, it's also not shy about charging high fares on routes that do not have lots of competition.

5. Frontier Airlines operates budget flights out of its hub in Denver to cities in the U.S., Costa Rica, and Mexico plus Vancouver in Canada. There are also flights to Mexico from U.S. cities other than Denver.

Using Frontier via Denver often saves money—especially for last-minute travel.

However, please note that, as of April, 2008, Frontier operates under bankruptcy protection, as did Delta, United, and other airlines in recent years. If you pay by credit card in this situation, you'll usually get a full refund if the airline ceases service before your trip.

6. JetBlue travels "on the cheap." You need not book return flights for the least expensive fares.

Booking on JetBlue's Internet site, instead of by phone, is always less expensive

Before checking its fares, study JetBlue's route map. Alternative airports such as Burbank, Long Beach, or Ontario for Los Angeles can save you money.

Vegetarians may not like the leather seats, but nearly everyone enjoys JetBlue's television screens at your seat and its complimentary snacks, which are surprisingly good for a budget airline.

Our one caveat: avoid short connections at congested JFK airport.

Dr. V. loves this airline.

7. Southwest Airlines. See our Southwest Airlines review page. Another DrV favourite.

8. Spirit Airlines offers wonderfully low fares on the routes it serves between U.S. destinations and to Cancun, Cartagena, Lima, Central America, and the Caribbean, but because it's privately held, there's no way to judge its financial viability.

As with airlines like Ryanair in Europe, Spirit has been very aggressive in charging for "extras," such as checked baggage and overweight or oversize bags.

9. Ted, United Airlines' low cost subsidiary, flies mostly out of Chicago/O'Hare, Denver, and Washington/Dulles.

Ted, in case you haven't noticed, stands for the last three letters of United.

10. WestJet Airlines—Canada's Southwest-type airline—offers trans-Canada service, including routes to Toronto and to Hamilton near Toronto.

WestJet has expanded its routes from Canada into the States, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. It serves three islands in Hawaii.

Other airlines may match fares

In the U.S., normally more expensive airlines like American, Delta, Northwest, and United tend to avoid competing with airlines like Southwest, which have lower labour and other costs.

However, when they do, their fares may be as low or lower. You see this on some intra-Texas routes out of Dallas, such as Dallas to Austin.

Book one-way fares in advance

Although you can get low last-minute roundtrip (return) fares on Hotwire and priceline.com, you should book one-way (single) tickets in advance.

The most competitive routes—the ones with frequent service by AirTran, JetBlue, Southwest, and WestJet—nearly always have great one-way fares when booked at least one or often two weeks in advance (or more for major holiday periods when more advance planning is needed).

Use these airfares in combination with coach or rail passes to maximize your time in the best areas.

For example, you can travel New York City - Washington, D.C. - Chicago - Denver - Reno - San Francisco - the Redwood Highway - Portland - Vancouver - Victoria - Seattle by bus and train, and then travel Seattle - Las Vegas - Albuquerque - Austin or San Antonio - New Orleans - Orlando by air using special one-way fares.

Thousands of such time saving combinations exist.

Go on to Bucket shop fares.

For more airfare savings tips:

Go to >> Airfare savings introduction
Go to >> Finding cheap fares
Go to >> Last-minute fares
Go to >> Combining fares
Go to >> Open jaws & circle trips
Go to >> One-way (single) airfares
Go to >> Bereavement flights
Go to >> Weekend internet fares
Go to >> Budget airlines, or Southwest Airlines
Go to >> Bucket shop fares
Go to >> Visit North America fares

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