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A Frequent Flier Shares His Travel Secrets

As you're finishing up your summer travel, you may find that booking a flight is like playing roulette — you never know what you'll get. Then there are the fees for everything from luggage to food to your seat assignment.

Nicholas Kralev has felt that pain. He's a former foreign correspondent for the Financial Times who's visited 82 countries and traveled nearly 2 million miles. Along the way, he's learned how to navigate the secrets of the airline industry and get the travel he wants at the price he wants. He shares those secrets in a new book, Decoding Air Travel: A Guide to Saving on Airfare and Flying in Luxury. Kralev tells NPR's Jacki Lyden that he once saved $5,000 on an international business class ticket. Just how did he manage that?

"With a lot of curiosity," Kralev says. "As I flew, I figured out that there should be a way to get lower fares and still get the same benefits — still get the same flights, not [have] to wake up at 3 in the morning to get to the airport at 5 or 6 o'clock."

The trick, he found, was to turn to the raw data that gets published by the airlines. Kralev says that sites like Orbitz and Expedia work well enough for booking simple, nonstop flights. But because many of those sites use automated systems that are programmed to maximize revenue, it's easy to overpay for a more complicated itinerary. Using the raw data offers more flexibility.

"There are only a couple of websites, and they're paid," he says, "but to me it's worth paying to access that raw data, because it's not that much, and I know that when I see a fare, that is the lowest fare."

Nicholas Kralev is a former <em>Financial Times </em>and <em>Washington Times </em>correspondent.
/ Courtest of Nicholas Kralev
Courtest of Nicholas Kralev
Nicholas Kralev is a former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent.

Outside of that, Kralev offers these tips for booking your air travel:

"Between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon, the airlines publish the heavily discounted fares. And then the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays," he says. "Every fare is published with its own conditions, but if I have to generalize, then I would advise people instead of going Friday night, see if you [can go] perhaps, Saturday morning."

Kralev is currently on tour to promote Decoding Air Travel. He says he booked all the flights — to 15 different cities — himself.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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