Longing for an escape that requires a passport? Los Angeles is one of the best departure points from which to get a cheap international flight.
Scott’s Cheap Flights, an airfare deal subscription service (free with a limited number of deals delivered to your inbox each week or premium for $49 a year, which often gives you multiple deals a day), analyzed its 2018 flight deals and created a top 10 list of the best and worst U.S. airports for international flight bargains. LAX was second with 353 deals (behind John F. Kennedy International Airport with 436 deals). San Francisco landed in fourth place with 336 deals. Long Beach Airport placed sixth on the worst list with 34 deals.
“Origin destination tends to drive airfare the most,” founder Scott Keyes said. He and John DiScala, founder of the travel website JohnnyJet.com, suggest some ways to find a deal.
Unadvertised sales: Most flight deals Keyes shares with subscribers are unadvertised sales “where an airline drops the price in the background so they can roll it back at any time,” he said. “They can see the demand and if others will match it.”
Mistake fares: “Larger airports are a bit more likely to have a mistake fare due to the volume of airlines,” Keyes said. The error might be a mistaken keystroke or it could result from an algorithm error.
Earlier this year, Fiji Airways had a mistake fare from LAX to Fiji for $396 round trip. Keyes has seen a $130 round-trip fare between New York and Milan, Italy, that the airline meant to sell for $1,300. Airlines often honor a mistake fare to avoid negative publicity “that could cost them billions in the long run,” but they are not required to do so.
Book quickly: The better the deal, the shorter its lifespan. It can make sense to grab a flight knowing you have 24 hours to decide. Under a Department of Transportation rule, you have 24 hours after booking to cancel for a refund.
Book at least three weeks ahead. With last-minute airfares, every day counts. Your odds of snagging a last-minute international bargain aren’t very good, except, perhaps, on a budget international carrier. From California, Keyes recommends checking Norwegian for nonstop flights to Barcelona, Spain, London and Paris.
If you’re not certain about dates, don’t book: Airline change fees can be as much as $200 for domestic flights and $700 on some international flights. “And don’t assume flight insurance covers you if your plans change and you want to change travel dates,” Keyes said. “Most do not, and policies that do are prohibitively expensive.”
If dates are tentative, book Southwest: Southwest is the go-to airline for people who are uncertain because it does not charge a change fee to change or cancel a flight. Now that Southwest is flying to Hawaii, fares are continuing to drop. The catch: It does not fly nonstop — not yet, anyway — from LAX.
Know your rights: Weather is typically the flier’s problem; mechanical issues are the airline’s responsibility. But if the airline changes the schedule, Keyes said, “that’s a loophole that can allow you to cancel or change your flight without any fee.” When there are extenuating circumstances, such as a medical emergency or a natural disaster, “airlines will typically waive change fees,” Keyes said.
If you’re flying to the European Union on an E.U.-based airline or you’re flying to the U.S. from the E.U. (on a U.S. or E.U. carrier), you may be entitled to compensation for flight cancellation. Visit AirHelp.com, which assists travelers with claims.