The cost of global airfare is projected to go up 2.6% in 2019, but that doesn’t mean that cheap tickets are completely going away – it just means that the best deals are going to be fewer and farther between. The key to snagging that special airfare in 2019 will be in catching it before it expires or inventory is sold out. Luckily, a handful of websites and newsletters have popped up recently to monitor fares and send proactive alerts for when the best fares drop. Together with a few legacy products, the newsletters should have your daily inbox chock full of flight deals.
The most established deal searching site in the space is Tripadvisor-owned Airfarewatchdog. This group of airfare enthusiasts runs a website and search engine that catalogs sale fares across the entire industry – all based on manual deals for which the team scours around the clock. In addition to newsletters that can be customized to a traveler’s point of departure, one of Airfarewatchdog’s best advantages is also that it’s got a search engine built into its site design, so it’s possible to run a search for a live fare based on a departure airport directly from the homepage. From top to bottom, the site is also free.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Founded in 2015, Scott’s Cheap Flights is a newsletter-forward product that’s built around finding and sharing the best deals as fast as possible. To participate, members can sign up for a free account on the service to get direct emails when a fare sale launches. For $39/year, it’s also possible to sign up for premium service, which guarantees faster delivery (for cases in which inventory is tight), expands the volume of deals in each email and allows users to filter by departure airports. Free and paid members can also sign into the company’s website to see the spectrum of currently available deals.
Premium service through Scott’s Cheap Flights also adds mistake fares to the deal alerts sent to each member. Several times a year, airlines will incorrectly load a fare into a booking engine, resulting in a ticket sold for $100 instead of $1000 or an amazing deal in a business class cabin to Hong Kong or Baku or Santiago. Cathay Pacific, for example, accidentally sold international business class tickets from Vietnam to New York City for $675 instead of $16,000 late last year; only those paying attention during the twelve-hour window in which the fares were loaded, however, were able to take advantage.
Part of the pitch from Scott’s Cheap Flights premium product is that its team will keep an eye out for those fares and share them with users as soon as the deals launch. And so far users swear by the service – subscriptions to the site’s newsletters have surged around 50% from 1.1M in January 2018 to just over 1.5M in 2019.
Perhaps the biggest competitor is Scott’s Cheap Flights is site called Secretflying. With a similar focus on breaking and error flight deals, Secretflying’s products are more focused on the social side of distribution. Deals are shared publicly on the site’s homepage and for $3.99/month, users can get access to an app which immediately pushes fare deals out to mobile users. It’s also home to a thriving community; over 800,000 members subscribe to Secretflying’s Facebook page compared to about 100,000 for Scott’s Cheap Flights. Like Airfarewatchdog, Secretflying’s homepage also has a search engine which allows users to scour fares based on a set point of origin, though its volume of airfares loaded into that engine isn’t as robust as its competitors.
The Flight Deal
One of the most comprehensive solutions on the market today is from a group called The Flight Deal. That tool uses automated technology to scour thousands of searchable city pairs each day and flag potential deals, giving the site a salient advantage over its competitors (though based on the data workload, its only able to scour about two dozen airports each day). A team of curators around the world checks each fare and then publishes the details to the site’s homepage and Twitter feed each day, giving a live play-by-play for breaking deals. The Flight Deal also has a newsletter, but it’s a daily summary of the fares unearthed each day, so for those looking for aggressive push alerts, the emails aren’t the best tools. The good news, however, is that it’s 100% free.