Secrets to Finding That Elusive Cheap Airfare Deal

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Airlines tend to manage their domestic U.S. airfares in four- to five month cycles; they tend to charge non-competitive, mid-tier rates for anything outside that window. Don't shop too early; start shopping about four months out and you'll have a better chance of establishing a baseline price and catching one of the few quarterly airfare sales. Procrastinators in 2008 will not be rewarded.

Airlines have been studying your air travel buying habits for years; they know when you want to go, where you want to go and what time you want to go. Now that you know what they know, be flexible with your dates and destinations and you'll always get a better deal.

Airlines are quick to promote new international routes with super cheap introductory pricing (like Northwest's $500+ round-trip fare for June travel from Seattle to London). Keep an eye out for news of new routes.

Airfare mistakes do happen. Just Monday United was accidently selling Dallas to Honolulu for under $200 out the door roundtrip. Sign up for airfare email alerts so you can catch a few airfare mistakes during the year -- they are almost always honored by the airline.

Making good airline ticket buying decisions is all about using a combination of new technology and education; if airline ticket buying has been a source of frustration for you, then start taking advantage of both.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new generation, software combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.

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