In the past, airlines used to post fantastic deals all the time in full page newspaper ads and online. Now, while there are some deals to be found from the airlines on special occasions like Black Friday, they are much harder to find the rest of the year.

This isn’t because the deals no longer exist–airlines just aren’t allowed to advertise them like they did in the past.

Joe Brancantelli of Joe Sent Me writes:

Remember when the airlines (and hotel chains) took out newspaper ads listing sale prices? Remember when they put up promotional pages on their Web sites? Yeah, that doesn’t happen much anymore. The reason: The Transportation Department essentially told airlines that ads or Web site promos of prices must be backed up with at least 5 percent of inventory. The airlines don’t want to do that–or run afoul of DOT rules. So now they drop prices–domestic and international–on a tactical and largely unpublicized basis 

…or maybe to their frequent flyers.

Everyone else is left out in the cold.

So, if airlines aren’t advertising sales, how is one supposed to score a deal on airfare?

There are two main things to keep in mind.

First, work with an experienced travel agent. At Cook Travel, our agents have access to special fares that aren’t available anywhere online. Also, we can share discounts with you on flights that have less than 5 percent inventory–we can score you a discount even if it’s the last seat on the plane. (We can even hold that last seat for you while you decide.)

Second, because airline sales are less predictable than they were in the past, flexibility goes a long way when trying to score discounted business and first class travel. Start planning your travel early, and inform your agent that your travel dates are flexible. They will continue looking for you until the time to purchase, so that you can get the best deal possible.