Last minute airfare
December 3, 2005 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I need to visit a family member in Santa Fe, NM, in less than two weeks. (I live in Miami.) The airfare right now isn't pretty, but I've heard people say that you can get cheaper fares at the last minute. Is this true? Should I hold off buying a ticket?
posted by chrisgrau to Travel & Transportation around Santa Fe, NM (19 answers total)
Best answer: Typically, no. Prices generally rise the closer you are to the date of travel, particularly less than one week in advance.
posted by blue mustard at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2005

anywhere from now counts as "last minute"...

try googling "last minute travel" or some such, and you'll come up with a bunch of websites. If you want to book this way it'll be cheapest to book about now.

most sites won't let you select an airline, you just pay x dollars for your fare, and once your flight is booked they let you know who the airline is. I guess the assumption is that if you want to fly as cheap as possible, then who you fly with is ancillary...
posted by ancamp at 12:08 PM on December 3, 2005

Also, you may know this already, but it's often cheaper to fly to Albuquerque (ABQ) than Santa Fe (SAF). It's about an hour of driving, but the difference in fare can sometimes be significant.
posted by blue mustard at 12:13 PM on December 3, 2005

Most airlines have last minute fare specials, but they are only for selected destinations and there is no guarantee your destination will come up in a given week as it depends on sales. For example, US Air calls them e-savers and this week their only destination from Miami is Charlotte. In some cases, you can only get the fares delivered in a weekly e-mail. From my experience, these special fares are listed only on the airline web sites and not in fare search engines like travelocity. If you are not coming up with anything, you could always try Priceline.
posted by Otis at 12:23 PM on December 3, 2005

blue mustard, chrisgau is referring to the very-last-second discounts airlines offer when the seat would go empty otherwise.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2005

So, please educate us all Count Ziggurat. Where can we find these very-last-second discounts from Miami to Santa Fe?
posted by blue mustard at 12:30 PM on December 3, 2005

Smarter Travel is a good source for last minute cut-rate flights. There are usually date restrictions, and the destinations vary every week - they don't come out very far in advance. But you can score a great deal if you're vigilant and flexible.
posted by Marnie at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2005

I don't know, blue mustard.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2005

It's $137 one way on Southwest Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale to Albuquerque, 1 stop. You have to check Southwest specially; their fares aren't listed in the normal systems.

I used to live in Santa Fe. Definitely don't try to fly to Santa Fe; go to Albuquerque. Get your relative to pick you up, or take one of the shuttles for about $25 one way.
posted by Nelson at 1:49 PM on December 3, 2005

The other way to get a cheaper fare is if you need to visit someone because they are in the hospital or someone has just died. For either of these reasons, airlines offer bereavement fares. If this is the case, you'll need to provide the airline with the exact details.
posted by mbrubeck at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2005

Yes, try Southwest for sure. If your relative can't pick you up let me know and depending on when you're traveling I may be able to help as I have some appointments in Santa Fe fairly regularly.

What are your travel dates?
posted by FlamingBore at 2:33 PM on December 3, 2005

And I don't know anyone that actually flies into Santa Fe. All my SF friends fly into and out of ABQ Sunport to save about half of what they'd spend to go in and out of Santa Fe.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:35 PM on December 3, 2005

Can't vouch for it personally, but allows you to choose specific flights or carriers, unlike Priceline. Requesting flights on the 16th (for example) from Ft. Lauderdale to Albuquerque gives a number of options around $300 r/t, plus a service charge. (None were nonstop, alas.) For comparison, flights from Miami to Santa Fe ran about $200 more r/t.
posted by rob511 at 4:00 PM on December 3, 2005

The prices at the last minute are more likely to be three times the prices two weeks in advance than they are to be cheaper.
posted by winston at 4:51 PM on December 3, 2005

The Southwest price of $137, one-way, is available on Thursday, the 15th of December. The lowest cost flight available on Saturday, the 17th, by contrast, is around $265. (In other words, if you have some flexibility and low cost is of the essence, check several different days on Southwest - the price can vary significantly, depending on whether less expensive options are available or not.)

I would be astonished if you could find anything cheaper than $137, one way, and fairly surprised if you were able to find a direct flight (I don't believe that any of the airports being discussed is a hub of a major airline).
posted by WestCoaster at 6:17 PM on December 3, 2005

You could try site59 for cheap last minute airfares combined with car rental or hotel nights over a weekend. They become available about two weeks in advance.
posted by egilmore at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2005

Best answer: Using about two months ago to get my wife from Montana to San Antonio...made the reservation on a Monday for a Tuesday departure (next-day):

Airfare Only: $1100
Airfare + Five Nights in Hotel: $636

Seriously. By booking airfare PLUS hotel on, we save hundreds of dollars -- and that was for next-day travel. Good luck.
posted by davidmsc at 12:04 AM on December 4, 2005

The current holiday airfares into Albuquerque are the worst I've ever seen them (my folks have lived there since the early '90s, so I've flown in for Xmas a good number of times) -- easily twice as much as I've ever paid to fly this time of year. Because ABQ isn't a huge airport and has a limited number of airlines flying in there, the flights tend to sell out fairly early -- so unfortunately, I wouldn't bank on any last-last-minute deals.
posted by scody at 12:20 AM on December 4, 2005

Response by poster: The problem with Southwest is the price coming back. After the 15th prices aren't very attractive. I've decided to go with an airfare + hotel combo through travelocity. Thanks, everyone, for the advice.
posted by chrisgrau at 5:28 AM on December 4, 2005

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