Top Myths About Airfares and Airline Tickets

Separating Fact From Fiction

Young man at airport departures
David Malan/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Sometimes it seems like there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to buying an airline ticket. There are myriad rules and regulations that guide ticket purchases, which can cause confusion. So below, we debunk 15 myths about airfares.

  1. The best day to buy a ticket is Tuesday. Airlines make thousands of fare adjustments a day. Plus there are always flash fares, so there's no one magic date for cheap fares. But the further in advance you buy, the cheaper tickets are.
  2. Clearing a computer's browsing history will yield lower fares. Travel search engine Skyscanner debunks this myth on its FAQ page: "It isn’t possible for the Skyscanner cookie to influence prices because, until the point of visiting the airline or travel agent's site to book, your session is anonymous.
  1. You can't get a refund if a ticket price drops. There are websites like Yapata and Flyr that track fares and inform you if they drop, which allows you in some cases to request a refund of the fare difference. 
  2. "INSERT WEBSITE HERE" always has the best airfare deals. With scores of travel-related websites on the internet and companies allowing for push notifications, there's no longer one must-use website to find the best deals
  3. You must buy a roundtrip ticket for the best deals. In the olden days, this was actually true. But now, there are websites like Kayak and Orbitz that will actually piece together trips on different airlines to get you the very best airfares.
  1. You get the best fares from an airline website. This may be true for flash fares on specific routes. But in general, independent websites can scan scores of airline sites (except for carriers like Southwest and Allegiant, which only sell tickets on their websites) and find better deals.
  2. Buying a ticket at the last minute means a better deal. There are times when you can get amazing fares at the last minute. But the usual rule of thumb is the more in advance you buy your tickets, the cheaper the fares are. It's also good to check for weekly fare sales.
  1. You can change the name on a ticket. It really depends on the airline. Some will force you to buy a new ticket, while others will charge a fee to make any changes, so it's important to check an airline's rules before buying a ticket.
  2. You can book tickets more than a year in advance. This is false. Most airlines release their seats up to eight months in advance only. Anything past that won't show up on websites, so you will have to call an airline directly to check for fare availability.
  3. You can upgrade a ticket to first class for a nominal fee. This is false. Airlines do offer passengers the chance to buy an upgrade when they check in at the airport, but it's not for a nominal fee. It's based on the distance of the flight, usually starting at around $200. 
  1. Airlines will accept tickets from another airline if you are traveling between the same airports. It depends on the airline. The legacy U.S. carriers -- American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines -- tend to honor each other's fares in case of flight cancellations. But if you're flying on low-cost carriers, you're out of luck.
  2. You need to stay over a Saturday night for the best airfare. This is still true. Airlines include a Saturday-night stay to discourage business travelers, who tend to pay higher fares, from buying lower priced tickets. 
  1. Airlines will offer discounts or special airfares for bereavement/family emergencies. Low-cost airlines do not offer these fares. But the legacy carriers have different policies, with some offering fares and some being flexible with passengers in need. 
  2. Airlines can change a ticket booked by a travel agency. Unfortunately, this is not always true. The travel agency, whether it be online or in person, owns the file and may have ticket rules that airline reservation agents simply have no access to. Or, you may be booked on more than one airline with specific flight routing that got you the airfare you wanted.
  1. You can change/refund tickets bought through a wholesale outlet or a bucket shop. This is a big no. There's a reason why these tickets are so cheap. They are bought in bulk from the airlines. So before you buy, you have to be 100 percent sure of where and when you want to go, because it can cost big bucks to make any changes, and refunds are not permitted.