Scoring Cheap (Non Emergency) Last Minute Airfares

Hello Travel experts,

I have a question for you if you have any tips please. Let's say I have decided to travel in the very last minute for a holiday or surprising family/friends etc., is there a way to know if the airlines have few seats left and haggle them for the cheapest price possible? They may as well sell the seats, right? Rather than taking off without filling that seat.

Any advice/tips will be much appreciated.



  • +4 votes

    I think they work in reverse.
    They know that any last minute person will have to pay whatever the rate is.


      If it is not an emergency for me and I will only travel if I am getting a cheap fare, is there a way to score that? If the flight takes off without filling that seat, it is an empty seat for them, they might as well make few bucks from it.

    • +1 vote

      Not really.

      I booked a Singapore Airlines flight from KL to Melbourne via Singapore about four hours before it was scheduled to depart and paid the same price as I would have if I booked a month in advance.

      Plenty of times I've bought flights same or previous day and it wasn't any more expensive.

      • +2 votes

        The cheapest seats on a plane are usually the first batch sold. Then they go up and up.

        • -3 votes

          Not even close to being true.
          But hey, what would I know I'm only Platinum with Virgin and Qantas… Not like I fly much or anything…



          It is close to being true if you actually track different airlines and fare classes.

          But what do I know I'm only double platinum…

        • +1 vote


          I'm with you bud, sale fares come out all the time, normally the best one are 3-4 months before departure.

          My dumb ex-housemate booked her SYD-LAX flight way too early because 'she checked last week and they were $1150, now they are $1200!'. A month later I found the same flight for $900 on sale on OzBargain.

  • +1 vote

    Airlines tend to reward precommitment rather than last minute buyers. On the other hand their booking sites are designed to impart a sense of urgency by telling you there are only a few seats left when it means from the current released batch. If their load prediction systems anticipate a lull they'll try to promote those well ahead of time. But sometimes they just can't fill all the seats and can't drop the service. And who knows maybe some of those empty seats are no-shows for which they have been paid.

    There is no consistent way to game them. You might get lucky sometimes. They are trying to game you too.


      Fair points and well said. I definitely understand and agree with you on all the above points.

      How do I go about getting lucky that sometimes? Is there a procedure to follow? I am not sure if the general reservation line agents (when I call them) will give a crap about selling those last minute seats and make some extra money for the airlines.

      • +1 vote

        Luck by definition is by chance. Maybe you can get luckier by checking for sales more often. Good luck. ☺

      • +1 vote

        Yeah as far as I know it doesn't really work like that, I know it would make sense for them to offer discounted tickets a day or two before departure to fill up the plane, but I think they want to discourage people from holding off that long.

        In the past standby tickets used to be a thing, but they've stopped doing doing it, along with upgrading as many passengers as possible to business and first class and letting people who get to the airport early get on an earlier flight (unless they have the most expensive super-flexi fare).

  • +1 vote

    Way back, airlines used to run a "standby" scheme, where you went to the airport and registered for a destination, and you got the next available seat. I did it a couple of times, and you never had to wait more than an hour or two.


    It kind of depends on where you are going and the season at the time.

    I've had a few circumstances where I had to buy last minute tickets immediately to travel overseas. Quite often I got pretty lucky and only ended up paying about 20% more than the lowest possible price on the route. Once I had to pay nearly triple the lowest possible price.

    Its also worthwhile stockpiling lots of airline miles from various programs.. award flights gives you more options.

  • +1 vote

    I did a bit more reading about this. We all know that the rates are decided on which fare class you are booking, which are sold, next available fare class etc.,

    Apparently, even though there may be empty seats on the flight, airlines tend not to offer these remaining seats at a cheaper price. The airlines don't want them cheaper in the last minute to avoid the passengers getting used to this pattern. Airlines want the passengers to book well in advance. Even though they may miss out on the revenue on the few seats, it will help the airline's business in the long run.

    But I am happy to hear someone to tell me that this is wrong.

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