Flying last minute on a coast-to-coast flight, our intrepid budget travel editor found a way to score a nonstop flight at less than one-third the typical cost... and saved even more on his return trip
What I'm about to tell you really isn't much of a secret, but it bears repeating anyway for those who might not be familiar with the practice. Last week, I needed to get from Southern California to the New York Metro area to attend my nephew's graduation party from NYU. When trying to book a flight at the last minute, I try to be as flexible as possible, especially when it comes to flying out of and into alternative airports. As I live halfway between the Los Angeles (LAX) and San Diego (SAN) airports, I have many choices for departures. For this trip, however, getting into my preferred airport of Newark Liberty International (EWR) wasn't going to be cheap. That's because EWR is a Continental fortress hub.
Now don't get me wrong, I like flying Continental, which is the highest-rated, traditional mainline carrier (Delta, American United, Continental, and USAir fall into this category). Continental even still serves meals in coach! But with their impending merger with United to form the world's biggest airline, I'm resigned to things getting worse, not better. Using Kayak.com, my first pass at booking a coach walk-up fare from SoCal, in this case San Diego, provided me a fare of $700 flying on Continental. No real surprise there. Even checking out all alternate airports turned up nothing much better, just one-way fares in the $400 range (I had to keep my return open for a possible side trip to Buffalo this Friday). As I'll explain, booking round-trip tickets makes little sense these days, especially when booking within three weeks of your date of departure. Better to book two separate one-way tickets.