Airline Tickets – How to Save on Trips for Two or More Passengers

Sometimes, an airline ticket for a single traveler can be cheaper – per person – than tickets purchased for a family or group of friends or a couple. Learn why, so you can avoid this trap, and avoid paying more than you have to.

How Airlines Price Tickets

Not all seats on a plane cost the same. Of course we all know that first and business class cost more than economy seating, but even within economy, there are several price points. In some cases, it depends on the time the tickets are purchased, and it can depend on how popular the seats are. A lot of this is your basic supply and demand. So it's time for you to shop for a trip for your family of four. Let's say there is one ticket left that costs $100, while the rest cost $150 a piece. You buy all four and expect to be charged $550. Instead, you're charged $600. What happened?


Airline ticket reservations systems have a pricing quirk: In a single transaction, all tickets for a flight must cost the same.

If the cheapest price point has one seat less than the requested number of passengers, it bumps everyone up to the next price level that has enough seats. If the next price level doesn't have enough seats to fulfill your ticket request, it will then bump you up to the next highest level.

This means that even though some of your party could actually fly at a cheaper price, you won't be given that chance.

There are, however, several ways to skin a cat and this simple little tip may save you hundreds of dollars on your flight.

Shop for One Passenger First

To make sure you are getting the cheapest seats for your party, simply shop for one passenger first to see what the base price is and compare it to the same quote you get when shopping for multiple passengers.

Of course, you should also check out multiple sites as well, because at any given moment different sites have different seat inventory and prices – and FareCompare shows you comparisons with many sites, making it the perfect one-stop shopping site for airfare.

I have used this technique for trips with my wife and daughter and saved many times when seat supply has been tight like it is now (and note: you can also use this technique on getting award seats for part of the party).

Split Your Ticket Purchase

To take advantage of this tip, you'll have to split your ticket purchase with part of your party on one itinerary and the rest on another.

I personally like to use 2 different browsers and get both transactions to the credit card page and then execute them one after another.

On some airline sites, there is a "hold" feature that I like to use.

If you are worried about using this technique, remember that most airlines have a 24 hour cancellation policy and by using your credit card you can keep airlines honest on their policies (the DOT has proposed this 24 hour cancellation policy on all airlines – which most have already).

I always suggest you review both the cancellation and change policies on all your ticket purchases – I wouldn't swipe that card without doing so.

The other important thing you should do is confirm your seat selections (which might be worth paying for, if you have to) so that at least some in your party can be seated together.

Airline reservations systems also typically have a limit of 6 to 8 passengers per purchased itinerary.

If you have larger group, then you should call the airline's "group sales" number so they can override this online maximum.

Don't forget: shop for one person on the route, before calling the number – so you are armed with that base price point.

The following is a list of airlines and their group booking information pages:

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