As a market, seniors are a formidable buying block. Most purveyors of services to this group have long recognized that there are limitations on income and have created incentives such as the so-called early-bird specials to attract diners in slower times. The airline industry is also keen to serve seniors and has instituted incentive fares to get seats filled. The senior fares and incentives vary from airline to airline. Some, such as Delta Airlines, offer discounts beginning at age sixty-two. Others, like Continental Airlines, have an age threshold of sixty-five. United Airlines has a special program called Silver Wings Plus that has tiered annual fees with stepped-up benefits. AARP also has a program called “Passport” that offers discount travel opportunities.
Be an aggressive consumer when researching fares. Be sure to compare any senior discounts with other discounted fares for the dates you will be traveling. Also make careful note of restrictions for the fares you are considering. If you can be flexible with your dates, you may be able to improve your chances for reduced fares.
A partial list of airlines with senior incentives includes:
Delta— offers senior fares on shuttles for those aged 62 and up
Southwest— offers refundable last-minute discounts
American Airlines/American Eagle/American Connection — senior discounts in some markets
Northwest— senior discounts in some markets
Continental— some senior fares for those aged 65 and up
United— Silver Wings Plus Travel Center (fee to enroll)
Your best chance of getting a senior, or any, discount will be in markets where there is competition among airlines. If you live near a major metropolitan area that is served by a couple of regional airports, you may have better luck getting cheaper fares if you are willing to drive a little farther. Often the smaller airports are easier to negotiate, and parking is cheaper.