How to Book Last-Minute Flights Online

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A woman booking a cheap last minute flight while waiting at the airport.

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Whether you're trying to save a few bucks or suddenly find yourself needing to travel somewhere in the near future, there are several websites and apps that can help you find last-minute flight details and book a cheaper ticket for your trip.

Is Booking a Flight at the Last Minute Cheaper?

Travel enthusiasts seem to be consistently split on whether booking a flight at the last minute is generally cheaper than booking in advance.

The reality is that buying a ticket in the hours or days before the flight's departure can potentially reward you with a discount but so can planning ahead and purchasing your flight months before. It all comes down to how crowded the flight is, what time of year it's flying, and when in the week the plane departs.

Sometimes last-minute is cheaper, sometimes it's not.

The key is to frequently compare ticket prices and to keep an eye out for any promotional campaign or slow, off-peak period deals. Last-minute flights can be cheaper but they aren't always.

Sign Up For Cheap Flight Alerts or Emails

Most airlines will offer free email or smartphone alerts that can be customized to let you know of new flight deals to specific locations or during certain windows. These services can be a fantastic way to stay up-to-date on the latest promotional campaigns or cheaper travel times.

Many airlines will also have several free email newsletters that you can opt-in to receiving. These will frequently promote upcoming discounted flights and frequent flyer promotions.

Follow Airlines on Social Media

In addition to signing up for airline email newsletters and notifications, it can be a good idea to follow your preferred airlines on social networks such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Not only will this keep you up-to-date on new deals but airline social accounts can also be rather inspiring to follow and could motivate you to travel to a location you wouldn't have considered otherwise. Instagram in particular is highly recommended for travel enthusiasts.

Don't Forget About Your Frequent Flyer Program

Sometimes it can be worth paying a little extra to fly with an airline that supports your preferred frequent flyer program than paying less to go with one that doesn't. In addition to earning points that can be redeemed for flight discounts or free flights in the future, flying with a frequent flyer airline can also earn you status points which can level up your membership and help you earn even more points.

A higher frequent flyer status can also reward you with free access to airline lounges at airports, extra luggage options, and priority check-in so if paying an extra $100 or so for a flight boosts your frequent flyer status, it could well be worth it.

Here are two popular services for finding and comparing cheap flights.

Booking a Last-Minute Flight With SkyScanner

SkyScanner is a completely free service that allows travelers to search for departure and arrival destinations and compare flight prices from most major airlines. SkyScanner search results can be sorted by flight price or duration with filters available to only show flights run as part of your preferred frequent flyer program.

The SkyScanner website.
 SkyScanner

What We Like

  • SkyScanner has official apps on iOS and Android.
  • Airline filters mean you don't have to miss out on getting your points.

What We Don't Like

  • Budget and premium airlines are both shown in search results by default so you'll need to research some airlines before booking a last-minute flight.
  • The number of search results can be overwhelming.

Compare Flight Prices With Momondo

Momondo is a flight booking service that's very similar to SkyScanner. It features booking functionality for all major airlines and clearly ranks flights based on price or time traveling. Flights can be searched for and booked on the Momondo website or via its free iOS and Android apps with the apps offering additional hotel and restaurant discovery features that use your smartphone's GPS technology.

Momondo travel website for cheap flights.
 Momondo

What We Like

  • Momondo allows you to compare its search results with rival booking websites like Travelocity.
  • Momondo's visual design is much more engaging than SkyScanner's.

What We Don't Like

  • No search result filter for Value Alliance flights.
  • Frequent pop-up prompts to sign in with your Google account are annoying.