Can You Buy Airline Tickets At The Airport

The convenience of purchasing airline tickets online has made heading to the airport to buy flights seem almost obsolete nowadays. With just a few clicks, you can compare prices across dates, airlines, and routes to find the perfect flight for your next adventure. But could there still be savings to be had for the more spontaneous traveler willing to buy tickets at the airport ticket counter?

The answer is yes, buying airline tickets at the airport can save you money in certain cases. However, it also comes with some potential downsides to consider.

In this detailed guide, we’ll cover when buying airline tickets directly at the airport does make sense to score cheaper plane tickets. We’ll also outline the key factors to weigh when deciding if an airport ticket counter visit is worthwhile for your situation.

How to Purchase Airline Tickets at the Airport?

Before we analyze whether buying a plane ticket at the airport can really save you money, it’s important to understand the process of actually booking a flight there. Here are the key steps:

  • Arrive at the airport early – Give yourself a nice buffer in case of lines and delays. Aim for 1-2 hours before your desired departure.
  • Locate the ticket counter – Find signs or ask staff to direct you to the ticketing area for the airline you want to fly. This is usually in the check-in hall.
  • Communicate your preferences – Tell the airline representative your ideal travel dates/times, destination, number of passengers, seating needs, etc.
  • Check flight availability – The rep will see if there are seats left on flights matching your requests and share schedule and fare options.
  • Confirm details and pay – Pick your preferred flight time, confirm passenger details with the rep, then pay for the ticket cost (cash or card).
  • Receive your ticket – You’ll get a paper or electronic ticket with key details like flight dates/times, passenger names, confirmation code etc.

While most major airports do have airline ticketing counters, the process still involves more work than booking online. But it opens up the possibility for some savings.

When Buying Tickets at the Airport Can Save You Money?

So when can heading to the airport to buy tickets actually score you cheaper plane tickets? Here’s the deal:

Certain ultra-low cost airlines like Spirit Airlines, Frontier, and Allegiant charge fees when tickets are purchased through their website or call center booking platforms. These can be as high as $25 per flight segment.

However, these online booking fees can be avoided if you instead buy your ticket directly at the airline’s airport ticket counter. For a roundtrip ticket, that could mean saving $50+ per traveler!

For example, let’s say you booked the following flight itinerary:

  • Allegiant Airlines
  • Roundtrip LAX ➡ Vegas
  • 2 adults
  • Total online fare: $250 x 2 people = $500

If Allegiant tacks on their standard $18 electronic carrier usage charge per segment, per person, that’s an extra $72 in fees.

But by buying the tickets in person at the Allegiant counter at LAX, you’d pay the base fare of $500 without the $72 in add-on charges. Saving $72 just by heading to the airport!

For a family of 4, the savings could tally over $100+. So for the right airline, there is truthful value in buying tickets at the airport ticket counter the old school way!

The Potential Downsides of Airport Ticket Purchases

Before you race to the airport to score tickets though, it’s important to also weigh some potential disadvantages:

  • Higher baggage fees – Some airlines charge more for checked bags when buying at airport counters. Make sure to account for this.
  • Inability to compare – Seeing all flight options or prices across different airlines isn’t possible. You just know what the rep tells you.
  • Risk of queues – Depending on day/time, airport lines could have you waiting awhile before ticketing.
  • Less flexibility – Understanding post-purchase change and cancellation policies can be trickier.
  • No mileage rewards – Can’t input frequent flyer numbers when booking at the counter.

Additionally, keep in mind that the ultra low-cost airlines may only open their airport counters in the 1-2 hours prior to scheduled flight departures. So your window to buy may be small.

The inability to easily compare all possible flight times, airline options, costs and fees is arguably the biggest drawback. Without full information, how can you know if the ticket price offered at the counter truly is the “best value”?

Tips for Getting the Best Value When Buying at the Airport

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided buying your plane tickets at the airport is worth it, here are some tips:

  • Research prices online in advance – This gives you an expected cost range for comparison.
  • Arrive early during operating hours – Avoid the last minute rush. Verify counters are open.
  • Prepare necessary docs and payment – Have IDs, confirmation numbers, cash/cards ready.
  • Clarify all fees – Know what’s included or extra (baggage, seat selection, etc).
  • Consider alternate area airports – Expand your search if one airport has limited fights.
  • Compare cost to online options – Would waiting to book online have gotten you a better deal?
  • Verify all ticket details – Double check accuracy before leaving the counter.
  • Keep all paperwork – Don’t lose receipts or the tickets themselves!

Knowing airport counter operating hours, having flexibility around airports, researching pricing in advance, and asking the right questions will make for the smoothest experience.

Critical Considerations When Deciding Where to Buy

While buying plane tickets at the airport ticket counter or ticketing area can offer certain cost savings and conveniences for some airline carriers, it isn’t necessarily the best choice across the board.

As you decide whether heading to the airport to purchase tickets makes sense for your situation, here are some final factors to consider:

  • Your proximity to the airport – Is getting there a major hassle based on distance or traffic? Will parking or transportation costs negate any potential ticket savings?
  • Number of travelers – The more people that can split the savings from avoided booking fees, the more worthwhile the airport trip. For solo travelers likely not worth it.
  • Value of your time – Factor in the total time to get there, wait, book, and get home when estimating if worth the effort.
  • Peak versus off-peak times – Higher crowds on weekends or holidays may increase wait times.
  • Ability to price compare online – The ease of seeing all flight combinations and prices in one spot online is invaluable for finding deals. Can you recreate this at the airport?
  • Cost and policies around changes – Changing or canceling tickets booked in-person can be trickier. What happens if your plans shift?

Be sure to follow the operating hours for your target airlines as well. For instance, Spirit Airlines ticket counter hours tend to be limited and vary by airport. Most other airlines open counters around 1-2 hours before scheduled departure times as well.

Getting to the airport outside these windows means you’ll be out of luck! So double check date, hours, and airline before heading out.

Other Ways to Find Cheap Flights Online

If trying your luck scoring discount airline tickets at the airport seems too uncertain or chaotic, lucky for you – it’s not the only way to find good flight deals!

Here are some alternative options for uncovering cheap airfare rates without leaving your house:

  • Monitor airline and travel booking site social media accounts – flash sales are often announced through Facebook or Twitter postings first.
  • Use meta search engines like Google Flights or Skyscanner to easily compare dates and prices across different airlines. Set up price drop alerts too.
  • Check out travel deal sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights which use algorithms to find mistake business class fares and email cheap flight options right to members.
  • Follow flight hacking blogs like Thrifty Nomads which post insider tips for scoring low cost airline tickets
  • Sign up for airline email lists to receive notification about seasonal sales or special discount code offers for subscribers
  • Use private browsing or delete cookies when running multiple searches – prevents sites from tracking and adjusting prices due to search history
  • Book connecting flights separately on two one-way tickets when cheaper than a roundtrip

A combination of advance planning, flexible timing, using technology to enhance search capabilities, and old fashioned persistence when hunting for deals can uncover some amazing airfare rates.

Sometimes for even cheaper than braving the airport counters could! But for the right situations, heading to the airport ticketing desk directly can undoubtedly save some money too.

Conclusion: Buying Airline Tickets at the Airport Can Pay Off

As you’ve now learned, buying plane tickets at the airport is still an option offered by most carriers. And while booking online tends to be more convenient and provides more visibility into flight options and prices across different airlines, heading to the airport can pay off in certain cases.

The key points to remember are:

  • For ultra low-cost airlines like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant – purchasing tickets at airport counters can avoid the $18-$25 or more in fees they charge per flight segment on online and phone bookings. This can result in major savings, especially for multiple travelers.
  • However – the airline counter convenience comes with some tradeoffs like potentially higher baggage fees, lack of ability to compare all flight/pricing choices, risk of queues making the process time consuming, and less flexibility around post-purchase changes.
  • To maximize your chances of getting the best deal, research pricing in advance, arrive early in the airline’s operating hours, understand all possible fees, and weigh time/effort factors like your proximity to the airport.
  • While not always a silver bullet for the absolute cheapest fares, buying airline tickets at the airport can be a smart strategy in the right situation. The key is doing your homework on the airline, airport logistics, and your schedule and priorities.

So don’t assume purchasing flights at the airport belongs only in the history books. For airline carriers with booking fees, it could just land you significant savings off your next adventure, with a little extra effort!

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