By now, you’ve probably heard of hundreds of different hacks on saving on airfare, like opting to fly out on Mondays, clearing your browser’s cookies or even buying your tickets at the airport. And while some certainly work, others are probably more an urban myth than any actual useful advice. (Some experts agree that clearing your browser’s cookies, for one, probably won’t accomplish much—but it doesn’t hurt to try it anyway.)
Here’s another travel hack that might just score you a good deal, if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported about savvy travellers who look out for airlines’ announcements of new route offerings. Why? Well, as WSJ reporter Scott McCartney writes, when a new route opens up, that airline has to fill hundreds of empty seats—and on the cheap. After all, that airline has to compete with other airlines with those existing routes to earn your airfare.
And when there’s a greater supply to go around, the price for all other competitor’s airfare for that route may also fall. (WSJ referred to a recent example of Southwest Airlines, which recently announced direct flights between San Diego and Maui. “Two weeks after the new flights start, the lowest round-trip fare for a four-day trip was only $US303 ($442), a 63% decline,” McCartney wrote, as compared to two weeks before the announcement when round-trip airfare averaged $US818 ($1,194).)
Airlines announce new routes virtually every month. American airline United, for instance, recently announced nonstop flights from Newark Liberty International to Cape Town, South Africa that will begin service later this month. Meanwhile, American Airlines also recently announced 20 new routes in 2020, which includes travel from Dallas Fort-Worth to Portland, Maine and Philadelphia to Martha’s Vineyard. Remember that airlines generally announce new routes several months in advance; if you’re looking to travel ASAP, this tip won’t do you much good.
If you have time to plan out your travel, though, then it’s worth setting up a Google alert for “new routes” from your local airport (or keep up with the Points Guy, which posts monthly updates on new routes).
Of course, this advice does come with a few catches. For one, if you’ve got your heart set on flying to one destination in particular, this may not be the strategy for you. You can’t count on an airline announcing a new route to Miami just because you really want it. If you don’t yet have any preferred destination, you might use it as an opportunity to find travel ideas and cheap airfare getting there, instead.
Also, as WSJ writes, while new routes generally mean cheaper airfare, it isn’t always the case. They note that when small, regional airlines announce new routes, major airlines are likely less affected by the competition and may or may not significantly lower prices. The same goes for routes that already have heavy competition among airlines. Chances are that an airline adding a route on a competitive circuit may have a smaller effect.
But there’s one good reason why this advice is more relevant than ever: When the Boeing 737 Max is cleared to fly again next year (the exact timeline is unclear, but both WSJ and the Washington Post estimate at least until after March), many major airlines will announce new routes with an expanded fleet. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to fly on a Max as it will likely affect any plane with similar routes.
So set your Google alerts now. And while we’re on the subject, here’s why you might want to rethink using any of those third-party booking sites when finding flights.