NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Airfare certainly isn’t cheap. According to a report from the Federal Aviation Administration, increased demand, coupled with major airline mergers, will lead to higher tickets prices through 2012 and beyond.
To help you counteract the effects of these external factors, here are some surefire ways to skirt fees, find deals and score discounts so you don’t wind up paying top dollar:
Join a frequent-flier club.
“Sign up for a frequent-flier program if your airline of choice offers one,” says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance. These programs allow you to accrue miles against your flights that can be put toward future purchases.
If you’re able to qualify for the club’s elite status, which typically involves flying more than 25,000 miles a year, you may also be entitled to waived baggage fees, priority boarding, bonus miles, exclusive discounts and preferred seating or upgrades.
Get a co-branded credit card.
If you don’t fly frequently enough to join your favorite airline’s club, you could, instead, opt for its co-branded credit card.
“The airline credit cards are a great option” for those who frequent a single airline, live by a hub city or fly four or five times a year, since they help you earn miles towards future travel, Counter says. Some of the best products also allow cardholders to skirt baggage fees.
Additionally, “if you’re disciplined enough not to overspend, watch for travel credit cards with ridiculous deals attached,” says Donna Freedman, a Savings.com DealPro who also runs the blog Surviving and Thriving. But don’t overdo it: Opening too many credit cards in a short time can do some damage to your credit score.
Compare apples to apples.
Thanks to the fee boom, “a base fare is no longer the true measuring stick of the cost of your flight,” says Jami Counter, director of flights for travel review site TripAdvisor. As such, you have to make sure you’re considering all fees and surcharges when researching cheap airfare for your summer vacation.