`Hidden' fares can reveal good deals for seniors

Flying: You or your travel agent will have to do a little poking around, but airline bargains are there for the taking.


May 14, 2000|By Tom Parsons | Tom Parsons,Dallas Morning News

Too many senior travelers (62 and older) are in the habit of buying senior air-fare coupon books. They think they provide the best deal. Too often, they have you flying on a ticket that costs much more than you have to pay.

The average cost of four senior coupons is about $600 -- $150 for each one-way flight. While that's better than many published fares, it's still more than "hidden" senior fares. You don't have to put on a trench coat, pick up a spyglass and follow a chain of clues to find these deals. They are easy for you, or your travel agent, to spot.

These hidden fares also add a big plus: You can book a companion ticket (for a traveler of any age) for the same low fare. Use this aspect of the deal if your spouse is younger than 62. Take your kids, or grandkids. Better yet, have them take you. In some cases, both of you can fly for what they might pay for a single nonsenior ticket.

Hidden fares are valid between most major U.S. cities. You can even use them for travel to Hawaii. They also let you override capacity limits on senior coupons (a limited number of seats set aside for coupon travel).

For example, recently it has been possible to fly round-trip from Dallas to Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Seattle for $198 -- a savings of $102 over coupon travel. Likewise, fares have been available between Dallas and New York or Boston for $178 round trip or to any of eight Florida cities for only $158. In each case, you can get the same fare for your companion of any age.

Business travelers at least age 62 also can use these fares, with a Saturday stay.

Right now, you can book hidden senior fares for travel through Sept. 30. In select markets, you can book for travel through Jan. 31.

Here are the keys that unlock the door to these savings. We'll use Dallas/Fort Worth-to-Los Angeles as an example. Your travel agent will be able to adapt the codes to your itinerary.

Agents using the Sabre computer reservation system should enter FSDFWLAX1JUNSC. On Worldspan, it's 4DFWLAXSNN. On Apollo, it's SDDFWLAX1JUN-SEN. Most savvy agents should be able to locate these fares.

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