10 insider secrets to get a free flight

A cheap flight is great, but a free flight is better. And while it might seem like a free plane ticket — or at the very least, a nearly free plane ticket — is just a dream, travel junkies and airline insiders know a few secrets to help make it a reality.

The average domestic round trip at the end of last year averaged $363, according to recently released data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. So, getting free flights means big savings.

You can score a great travel deal, but you have to know the tricks of the trade. Over the past decade, a vast community of insiders, experts and airfare watchers has sprung up to tip you off to the next great deal. A big part of scoring a free ticket is being plugged into this world, a sort of Airfare Matrix.

That means reading the insiders’ blogs, and checking in on message boards, forums and wikis. It also means following airlines’ social media feeds, signing up for airline rewards and frequent flier programs, and checking fares at any number of websites and aggregators.

Luckily, the experts are here to offer shortcuts to their shortcuts. Following is their list of top 10 tips to scoring a free ticket.

1. Know the Right Sites

Few “insiders” are really looking for flight deals on Expedia, Orbitz or Kayak anymore. The rule seems to be that the more people know about a site, the less chance it has of offering rock-bottom prices. The airlines’ own sites offer cheaper flights than these search giants.

If you want to look for flights outside the airlines’ own websites, experts say you are better off heading to lesser-known options. These include Skyscanner, Momondo, Airfarewatchdog and ITA Matrix. This last site — an insider favorite — allows you to shift dates and routes easily to find the cheapest options.

Other good sites include View from The Wing, The Flight Deal, ExpertFlyer or FlyerTalk’s forums.

2. Work Those Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

Credit card sign-up bonuses are “the easiest way to rack up miles quickly,” said Sam Huang, founder of Top Miles. You should be able to find plenty of travel credit card deals. Huang said sign-up offers are currently at an all-time high.

Plenty of major credit cards offer 50,000 miles or more when you sign up. How valuable are such miles? You can fly Singapore Airlines’ hotel-room-in-the-sky suites from New York to Frankfurt one way for under 60,000 miles, Huang said.

Websites like GOBankingRates, MileCards and The Points Guy track cards that are currently offering bonuses so big that you can score multiple free flights by simply signing on the dotted line.

Be warned, though: You typically need good-to-excellent credit to qualify for these kinds of offers. In addition, the cards might come with fees. And if you are not responsible with your credit — meaning you do not pay off your monthly bills in full at the end of each billing cycle — your interest payments might wind up erasing your savings over time.

3. Get Bumped

Prepare properly before your trip, and you will increase the odds of saving money. Prepare to get “bumped,” and you might get a flight that is truly free.

“Getting a free ticket via getting bumped is arguably more common today than it was five to 10 years ago, since airplanes are flying regularly at full capacity now, making the need to bump greater,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Keyes has done this dozens of times and has a clear five-step method to getting bumped and scoring a free ticket.

  • Figure out your odds of getting a bumped. Look at a seat map when checking in at the airport. If there are just a few or no extra seats, your chances are good.
  • Be in the gate area early. Keyes recommends arriving 30 to 45 minutes before boarding.
  • Sit as close to the agent desk as possible. Keep your eyes and ears open. “On multiple occasions, I’ve beat out other potential volunteers by sitting closer and jumping earlier,” Keyes said.
  • Know when to pull the trigger. Keyes said airlines usually start offers at $250 and then ratchet up by $50 every five minutes until they get enough volunteers. “I typically pull the trigger early — usually the first offer,” Keyes said. However, he also requests to have his offer upgraded to match any final offers the airline grants to other volunteers later in the boarding process. “Most of the time they’ll agree,” Keyes said.
  • Leverage your offer. Recent FAA rule changes force airlines that bump passengers involuntarily to give the passengers up to $1,300 in compensation. Airlines want to avoid this fine, so you can make some demands, such as a more direct route or a first-class seat. For a full look at your rights when getting bumped, read the federal government’s rules.

4. Sniff Out Wacky Promotions

You can also score a free ticket by exploiting wacky promotions. Gilbert Ott, founder of God Save the Points, said he once took a free private jet from Boston to Washington, D.C., by finding a coupon code that offered free flight credit.

“It was intended for people who became members of a really expensive membership program, but the code was accepted in the app and we booked successfully without paying a dime,” he said.

Search online for free flight credit coupons or promo codes and follow major airlines’ social platforms for promotional giveaways. If you are plugged into any of the message boards or blogs mentioned in this article, you might get the inside track on new promotions. However, the experts admit that scoring tickets this way is pretty rare.

5. Make a Mileage Run

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: This method does mean buying a ticket to get a free ticket. But if you are free-spirited, flexible and love to travel, it can be worthwhile.

Basically, if you are already plugged into that Airfare Matrix, you can watch out for routes that earn double or triple miles and book a cheap flight just to earn the miles. These offers typically arise when airlines open a new route and want to promote it. Thus, they create opportunities to earn heavy miles.

Find the right balance of fare cost and miles earned, and you can wind up with what amounts to a great “buy one, get one free” deal.

6. Time Your Big Purchases

Exploiting your credit card-offered miles takes some expert timing. Jason Moore of Zero To Travel wrote that he once got a free ticket by simply opening up a new credit card and then using it to pay his taxes. This combination of the sign-up bonus miles and the number of miles earned on this large “purchase” meant he earned a free ticket in less than 15 minutes.

Think of computers, televisions, major appliances or even home repairs with a contractor that accepts credit cards. These big ticket items — paid back immediately from your checking account, of course — can mean instant free flights with some offers.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean buying things you do not need. But when a pipe leaks and your plumber takes credit cards, the miles earned might ease the pain of the bill.

7. Shop Through the Airlines

One of Gilbert’s favorite ways to find great travel deals is to make online purchases through airline shopping portals. Essentially, you log in to your frequent flier account on an airline website, go to the airline shopping portal, and earn miles just for making purchases from your favorite retailer.

“It’s kind of like a referral program,” Gilbert said. Sometimes certain retailers will offer 25 or more miles per dollar. “If you buy a laptop from your favorite online store, it may be enough for a free flight,” he said. “It’s so easy and can mean thousands of miles and endless free flights if you shop online.”

Like the previous tip, you will have to spend money to earn a ticket. But when it is stuff you need anyway, you might as well earn the miles.

8. Take Advantage of ‘Mistake Fares’

In the flight-hacking world, mistake fares — or error fares, as they also are known — are fares so low they seem like a mistake. And in some cases, they are. Either way, they happen more often than you think, said Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler.

Both Waugh and Huang recommend searching the website Secret Flying, which specializes in digging up these kinds of fares. Like a mileage run, this method is also something of a “buy one, get one free” situation, and means taking long-haul flights in coach.

“For example, I am scheduled to fly from Taipei to San Jose, which will net me at least 11,000 miles round trip, for $165,” Huang said. He noted that 12,500 miles is enough for a one-way ticket within the United States.

And, he added, those fares never last long.

9. Rig a ‘Fuel Dump’ Ticket

This trick is not going to score you a free ticket, but it could nab you one very cheap.

A fuel-dump ticket is kind of complicated. Basically, an airline charges for fuel separately — you will see this charge itemized when you purchase tickets. Sometimes, that charge is the most expensive part of the ticket.

So a fuel-dump ticket is one where the airlines have dumped the fuel charge thanks to some magical combination of flights, such as adding a third leg to the end of a round-trip ticket, even though you have no intention of taking this final round-trip flight. Gilbert explains this “Wild West” method of flying at God Save the Points.

This is where sites like FlyerTalk are your friend because these types of tickets are not advertised, and the airlines allegedly actively monitor the internet looking for people who spot these kinds of fares so they can eliminate them.

10. Get a Checking Account That Earns Miles

Some banks will give you miles for opening a checking account. For example, Huang said depositing $50,000 at BankDirect will earn you 60,000 miles annually. You only pay $144, the $12 monthly service fee on the account.

He said it is “an amazing deal, since 60,000 miles can get you at least two round-trip trip tickets in coach anywhere in the U.S.”

From GoBankingRates.com: 10 insider secrets to get a free flight

Nevada's solar industry on the rebound
In 2015, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted in favor of a new tariff structure that reduced net energy metering buyback rates and increased fix fees for residential solar customers.
Apartment complexes selling fast in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ apartment vacancy rate is among the smallest in the country, and rents are climbing faster than the national average. (LVRJ)
Aristocrat Opens $45M Campus In Summerlin
Aristocrat Technologies Chairman Ian Blackburne discusses the company's growth. (LVRJ)
Sunrise Hospital celebrates 60 years
Sunrise Hospital opened its doors to patients on Dec. 15, 1958. Employees of more than 35 years celebrated at a luncheon Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Jessie Bekker/ Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Maya Cinemas to open soon in North Las Vegas
Moctesuma Esparza, CEO of Maya Cinemas, talks about the newest location in North Las Vegas, set to open Jan. 10. The aim of the theatre chain is to serve latino-centric, underserved communities.
Holiday shopping and returns make this the busiest time of year for UPS
The UPS Las Vegas South facility is the company's busiest pre-load operation in the country, and it's even busier this time of year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times
The mall, attached to Primm Valley Resort, opened in 1998. Back then, it was a “textbook, perfect outlet-center location." But now, Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times. Las Vegas Boulevard has endless shopping spots. And there are other outlet malls that don’t require a hefty drive to the state line. Its mortgage-holder foreclosed on the mall in late September.
Miltary auction at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
Humvees, ammo cans, construction equipment, field gear and more is on the auction block Friday and Saturday at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. About 10,000 items in all are for sale in what GovPlanet bills as the largest auction of its kind.
Las Vegas residents discuss avoiding holiday scams
Las Vegas residents discuss their donation habits and how they avoid giving money to scam charities during the holiday season. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory ahead of economic impact expectations
The Tesla Gigafactory’s economic impact on Nevada has exceeded projections, bringing in more than 7,000 jobs. In 2014, Nevada agreed to give the automotive and energy company $1.3 billion in tax abatements. In return, Tesla promised to meet certain requirements in areas like employment and capital investment. As of June, Tesla has brought in a total of $6.05 billion in capital investment, surpassing the $4.95 billion projection. The original contract gave the company until 2024 to make $3.5 billion in capital investments in Nevada. Derek Armstrong, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Land sales near the Las Vegas Raiders stadium
Land around the Las Vegas stadium site has been selling for high prices. A few months before the stadium’s groundbreaking, Global Trust Group acquired a 2.5-acre parcel just north of the stadium site. The property sold for $7.25 million, or $2.9 million an acre. Osprey Real Estate Capital and Huntington Hotel Group acquired a 2-acre industrial site just west of the stadium site in late November. The property sold for $6.5 million, or $3.15 million per acre. That's roughly 12 times the average price of land in the valley this year as tracked by Colliers International.
T-Mobile Tech Experience Truck parks in Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena
The Tech Experience Truck is a state-of-the-art showroom on wheels, with demonstrations that put connected drones, smart cities, augmented/virtual reality and smart tracking. The exhibit shows new wireless technology – including 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents to keep them from teetering off into homelessness. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vrgas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Crowds camp out for Chick-fil-A opening
Dozens of customers camped out 24 hours ahead of the 6 a.m. Thursday opening of the new Chick-fil-A on Rainbow Blvd.
Cheapest listings for sale in Las Vegas
Listed for $39,990, 585 S. Royal Crest Circle, Unit #9 is one of the cheapest homes currently listed for sale in Las Vegas. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Terry Miller discusses Convention Center
Project Manager Terry Miller explains the phases of Convention Center construction.
Zappos treats their team members on Cyber Monday
Zappos rolls out a variety of food, drinks and special activities for all team members at their downtown Las Vegas headquarters for Cyber Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Team Hybrid at the 2019-Model Motor Trend International Auto Show
Among the companies showing off the 2019 model cars, Team Hybrid shows off its modified cars. Las Vegas resident David David talks about the team, which is in its ninth year exhibiting at the show, and his show car.
Black Friday Shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal
Black Friday shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfYe
Black Friday shopping in Las Vegas
Black Friday sale shopers express their shopping experience. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Livestock recycling Strip food waste
Las Vegas Livestock collects and recycles food from many Las Vegas Strip companies. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday at Fry's
Shoppers line up for deals early on Black Friday at Fry's Electronics on Las Vegas Boulevard South. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am on Nov. 23. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Black Friday - 1am Closing Time
Quiet night.
Black Friday - 12:30am - Best Buy Arroyo Crossing
Sam's Town Holiday Lighting Ceremony
On Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, Mystic Falls Park opened with its annual tree lighting ceremony, hosted by Boyd Gaming Executive Chairman Bill Boyd. The attraction features a Winter Wonderland theme and holiday-inspired laser light show, available daily Nov. 23 to Jan. 1. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What Is A Smart City?
George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, Panasonic’s smart-city arm, explains. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Walmart uses virtual reality to train employees
Walmart Academy Facilitator demonstrates the VR training program being used by Walmart stores across the country.
With holidays around the corner, department stores hiring extra staff
J.C. Penny hired 72 seasonal workers this year at the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson in order to handle the heavy traffic of the holiday shopping season. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like