NBC News
updated 2/14/2004 6:08:27 PM ET 2004-02-14T23:08:27

There is a travel trade secret that can really save you a lot of money, but if you don't now where to look, you can't get in on the deal. NBC's Chief Consumer Correspondent Lea Thompson has an inside look.

How about a flight from Chicago to Newark for $703? Sound pricey? What if I could get you one for $267 on the very same plane and you could book either one today? Sound impossible?

“Situations can occur where one airline sells out their lower priced seats, the other still has some left, but we also have situation where each airline files a different fare, “ says airline expert Terry Tippler.

He says the new airline partnerships have some hidden deals for consumers. But don't expect the airlines to tell you about it.

Take that Chicago to Newark example. We knew that U.S. Airways and United Airlines were partners. When we went to the Internet to book that flight 10 days away,

U.S. Airways wanted $703. But when we clicked over to United and looked up the same flight, it only wanted $267. That’s more than a $400 difference.

“You've got to get in there, do a little digging, but you can come up with a pretty good deal sometimes,” says Tippler.

When airlines team up, they all sell tickets and apply frequent flyer miles for one another’s flights.

How about a flight from San Francisco to Madison, Wisconsin, 10 days away? Continental and Northwest are partners. Continental wants $487, but Northwest only wants $373. It’s the same airplane, same day, but with over a $100 difference.

Remember, one airline may the cheapest one day and the most expensive the next. The key to finding the best price is to check all the partners before you buy.

You do need to be aware that different airlines might have different rules about the same flight, such as cancellation privileges, extra baggage and that sort of thing. You can comparison shop with a travel agent or you can do it yourself by calling around or checking online.

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