(NEW YORK) -- Airlines raised fares last week for the third time this year.
The price hike, $4 to $10 on most round-trip flights, was led by United and quickly matched by many other carriers. The lower fare hike applies to shorter routes, the higher to longer routes.
While not every fare hike sticks -- airlines tried to raise fares 22 times last year and succeeded only nine times -- there’s not much that can be done to keep airlines from trying. They raise fares because they’re secure in their belief that people will still fly despite fare hikes. But when faced with a plethora of unsold seats, airlines drop prices.
In the meantime, people still need to take their business trips, vacations and visit family and friends. So, here are four strategies you can use to get the best possible airfare:
1. It’s not so much when you book as when you fly.
For as long as there have been travel experts sharing travel tips, you’ve heard that booking early is the key to getting a great deal. A recent study found the best time to buy is six weeks in advance. And while booking as soon as you know your plans is important, how far in advance you book may not be as important as when you fly. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays tend to be the least-traveled days of the week and are therefore the cheapest days to book. Even incorporating just one of these days into your flight plans brings down the cost of the trip.
2. Nearby airports are your friend.
Sometimes referred to as “alternate airports,” they are a reasonable drive from your preferred airport. Now, reasonable means different things to different people, so know exactly how far the alternate airport is from your destination and the costs associated with getting there (gas for rental car, charter bus, public transportation, etc.).
3. Connections are almost always cheaper.
No one wants to hear it, but connecting flights are often far cheaper than direct flights. Why? Because they’re less desirable. But proceed with caution here -- unless the money saved is significant, it may not be worth your while. Every flight you add to your itinerary increases the odds of something going wrong -- delays, lost bags, etc.
4. Early-morning flights are often less expensive.
Again, this has to do with the desirability of the flight. If it leaves at 6 a.m., you have to be there by 5 a.m. at the latest. Say you’re a 45-minute drive from the airport, you need to leave home by 4 a.m. if you need time to park. That means you’re up at 3:30 if it’s just you and far earlier if you have kids to get ready. So a 6 a.m. flight very quickly becomes a 3 a.m. wake-up call.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio