Reasons Not To Buy The Cheapest Airline Ticket

cheap airline tickets

I have a lot of friends that go online and buy the cheapest ticket that they can find. This would seem to be a good way to save money, but the reality is that buying the least expensive ticket isn’t always the best way to save money on airline tickets. In fact, it can end up costing you a lot of money in other ways. Over time I have discovered that when it comes to buying airline tickets, cheap doesn’t usually mean the best deal or value. Here area few things that it’s essential to consider which can make the cheapest ticket end up costing you more than a higher priced ticket:


The cheapest ticket for your flight might include a layover. A layover doesn’t sound that bad, right? How about when it’s for more than a few hours in the middle of nowhere? What if the connecting flight is delayed? Depending on your destination, a direct flight might only be slightly more expensive and can give you an extra half a day or more at your destination. It also greatly reduces the risk that you luggage gets lost. When time is money or the time you’re going to be spending with family or friends is valuable, losing time to save a few bucks often doesn’t necessarily make financial sense.

Airport Location

One way to get a cheaper ticket is to fly out of a less popular airport, but saving a few bucks to leave from an airport farther away can come with costs. If you take a taxi or shuttle, the cost of transportation will be more. It may be more difficult to find a friend to take you. You will spend more time getting their and back. While these won’t necessarily make the ticket price more, they can so it’s important to take this into consideration.

Overnight Layovers

Sometimes the least expensive ticket comes with a layover. it’s important to consider the price of the hotel you will need to book, the cost of getting from the airport to the hotel and back (including tips) that you would not have had to pay. There may also be extra costs for meals not to mention the lost time at your destination if you had taken a direct flight. All this can quickly make a ticket that seems like a great deal a lot more expensive.

Hidden Fees

A lot of major airlines tack on a processing fee or tax after you decide on a flight. You usually know that this fee is coming since it is so prevalent these days. The same is true with a baggage fee, although there are some people that like baggage fees. Many of the cheaper airlines, however, have hidden fees associated with their tickets in addition to that processing fee or tax. For instance, British Airways charges a fee just for booking with a credit card! Worst of all, sometimes you won’t know about these outrageous fees until after you plug-in your credit card information. By that time, your “cheap” flight can be same price as the more convenient flight you could have chosen instead.

Check-In Costs

While hidden fees might appear after you purchase your ticket, some of the cheaper airlines charge you a check-in fee for just checking into the airport! While it might be as low as $10 or $20, that’s still $10 or $20 you wouldn’t have to pay for other tickets. Add this to other unexpected fees and the ticket price may be nowhere near the price you originally thought you would be paying for your flight.

Unreliable Schedules

Cheap airlines often have a limited number of planes and worse, a very tight schedule. Sometimes they’ll try to pack as many flights into a day as they can. Of course, this occasionally leads to malfunctions which leads to delays. getting a ticket on an airline that is running a thin fleet can cause major problems if there is a mechanical problem. In this situation, you’d be stuck without a new flight or might miss your connecting flight at another airport. Do you really want to risk having to spend money on a second plane ticket after the first ticket didn’t pan out?


Some of these cheaper airlines refuse to refund passengers if their flight is cancelled, rerouted, or they miss a connecting flight with the airline. This is usually printed in very fine print at the bottom of the ticket or the company’s website. If you happen to have a cancelled flight, it’s money you’re still losing out on.

Travel Insurance

Many of the cheaper airlines will try to scare customers into buying travel insurance. For instance, JetBlue “recommends” that passengers purchase insurance for their trip in case of an emergency. While it might not seem like a bad idea to buy $15 travel insurance, you’re actually not buying anything worthwhile. You might get some fees refunded, but most airlines refuse to cover lost or stolen luggage over $500 or $1000. There is also a good chance that you are covered by your homeowner’s policy or credit card (be sure to check), and it’s important to note that airline tickets is one of those purchase you should make with a credit card due to the benefits they provide.

Change of Information

We all make mistakes and sometimes you realize that you entered your name wrong, entered the wrong departure time, or picked the wrong destination. These are usually things you can call and change, but while some major airlines will change it for no fee, buying the cheapest ticker may hit you with a $100 fee. Did you book a ticket way in advance and then have to change the time because of unforeseen circumstances? Well, then your cheap ticket is probably going to cost you the same price as a more convenient ticket would have.

(Photo courtesy of Vox Efx)

This entry was posted in Budgeting, Frugal, Personal Finance, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Reasons Not To Buy The Cheapest Airline Ticket

  1. Alexandria says:

    I’ve generally had pretty good luck with airlines getting refunds (that would not be expected due to fine print), and these are usually in regard to cheaper fares that come with more catches.

    BUT, this is a good point. I have had good luck with *major airline carriers.* This is one area why I skip the cheaper carriers – many reasons noted here.

    I like the different airport/layover trick when flying my whole family because the savings really compounds over multiple tickets. But as a single flyer it is true that hotel and transportation costs can easily eat up any savings. IT’s the kind of thing I rarely bother with flying alone.

  2. hon says:

    No matter which airline you choose or airport you must fly prepared for this to go wrong. Bring a carry-on with air pillow, shawl,socks, trail mix type snack, breakfast bars, preferred type of entertainment, smart phone, mini pak wipes. Buy water as soon as you clear Security.

    You can easily be stuck in your departure airport, on the runway or connecting flight airport. An electrical storm can affect the best plans whether first class, executive class, business class, economy or the cheap seats.

  3. bben says:

    As a former frequent traveler – now retired, I learned to avoid the consolidators – Orbitz, etc. When you deal through them, you are not the airlines customer, the consolidator is. And when something does happen, the airlines take care of their own customers first. Since you didn’t pay the airline for the ticket, you have to go back to the consolidator for a refund. Instead, if you pay a little extra to a legitimate travel agent, they will take care of you. They have access to the same databases as the consolidators so, often they will find the same inexpensive flight. The ticket is bought through the airline under your name, you are informed of all fees by the agent, if there is a problem, it is the agent that spends the time on the phone with the airline getting you rerouted, getting you a hotel, and often getting a refund.

  4. Gail says:

    Last summer we went by air to my son’s wedding. First time on an airplane in 15 years. Let’s just say that anything that could go wrong did and it wouldn’t have mattered how much you paid for your ticket! Because I have extremely bad arthritis that a one hour car ride can leave me sore and in pain, we decided to fly rather than drive for the 5 hour trip. We got to the first leg of our destination just fine (there was NO straight flights at all). Then after about an hour and half lay over the sign went up that our next leg was canceled (broken airplane part–which is fine I didn’t want to go on a broken airplane), so whet do we get? Not a delayed flight, not an offer for a free meal, nope they decided that they would BUS us 2 1/2 hours away!!! If I had wanted to go by bus we would have driven in our own car with a safe driver. Because the driver drove like a maniac, no seat belts in the bus and my hubby had to brace me to help cushion my joints. The bus didn’t even take off till past the time we should have arrived at our destination. For some odd reason the airline didn’t seem to think that they owed us compensation for sticking us on a bus–what a way to make money, sell an plane ticket and then put the passengers on a dirty bus! Nor did they even offer a crumb of bread for the long delay that prevented us from getting a meal. Our flight home was almost as bad but due to a terrific rainstorm we had another canceled flight and a long delay and a 5 hour trip became over 12 hours to get home.

    The point of all this was when I got home I immediately wrote to the airline and demanded satisfaction AND I called my credit card company (the joys of charging). When I told the customer service rep what had happened she about fell out of her chair as she lived in the city that we were bused to and knew the distance and how ridiculous it had been. No hassle she put a hold on that part of the bill (I was willing to pay for the flights we actually got). Two months later the charge was officially taken off our bill and somewhere along the line much later we got a form letter from someone at the airlines with a voucher for a free plane ride. You can tell no one read my letter as I specifically told them I had no intention of ever riding on their airline again and to NOT send me a travel voucher!

    But the problem with all this was it didn’t matter who or when you bought your ticket–we all suffered the same fate although some weren’t as physically bad off as I was. I could also tell at the various airports that canceled flights, overcrowding, etc. is an ongoing problem for all travelers. I won’t even get into how ridiculous security checkpoints are when dealing with disabled passengers!

  5. Hope says:

    While some of the points in this article are valid, it paints with too broad a brush. Many of the complaints about “cheaper” tickets on “cheaper” airlines can just as easily happen on a mainline airline (not so much the ones about booking fees or check-in fees, but it always pays to research the fees ahead of time).

    Where I thought the author would go and never did, is that the cheapest tickets are often the most restricted. Sometimes (depending on your circumstances) it pays to look at a higher costing “fare class”…it may have fewer restrictions on changes or refunds, if you know your plans may change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *