Hack your flight plans for deep discounts

Photo courtesy Flickr user Benjamin Thompson

(MoneyWatch) Everyone wants to save money on their next flight. The question really comes down to this: How much hassle are you willing to put up with to fly for half price?

The Wall Street Journal has spotlighted a way to deeply discount your next trip: Instead of booking your trip the normal way, pair two unrelated, discounted tickets for a massive savings.

It turns out that airlines routinely offer significant savings on flights through major hubs cities. But these are offered on their own and not paired with connecting lights in online reservation systems. That means you are paying a lot more for many flights you routinely take because you booked the flight the usual way, using an online reservation service. Airlines have a good reason for doing this: It allows them to offer city-specific discounts to control supply and demand, without triggering massive fare wars.

So how can you get in on the savings? Simple, at least in principle: Search your route a leg at a time, looking for good deals on one-way fares.

Be aware that there's a significant downside to this approach. Since the various flights in your overall trip aren't connected to each other in the reservation system, you'll need to claim checked bags and pass through security for each leg in your flight. That adds a lot of time and risk to your travels, so you might only want to try this when you're limited to carry-on items. Moreover, if a flight is delayed or canceled, the connecting airline is under no obligation to accommodate you, and will probably treat you as a no-show.

Would you consider -- or have you ever -- booked one-way legs yourself to save money on your trip? Sound off in the comments.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Benjamin Thompson

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