It’s easy to fall into that unfortunate stereotype of the broke college student. But the truth is that your college years are an amazing time to travel the world. Part of that boils down to the long college breaks you’ve got in between semesters — but it’s also because airlines tend to give some pretty attractive student discounts.
Although they’re not always well advertised, a large proportion of major and discount airlines across the US and further afield offer all sorts of deals to student travelers. Some of those deals are exclusive to students at certain schools or states, while others are based on your age rather than where you’re enrolled.
This guide will explain how college students can fly cheaply and which airlines currently give student discounts.
How can college students fly cheaply?
The average airfare for a domestic flight in the United States is currently sitting at just over $260 per round trip ticket — but that all depends on where you’re flying to and where you’re flying from.
For example, a typical round-trip flight to LA is about $330. But if you want to fly to Las Vegas, you’re looking at a cost of more than $232. Meanwhile, a return flight to remote parts of Alaska could set you back almost $1,600. If you’re flying international, the average cost of a two-way ticket is going to be $1,368.
Some people might clock these numbers without breaking a sweat, but to many college students, even a cross-country domestic flight can really break the bank and mess up their finances. Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies you can use to keep your flight costs down and save money.
Check the cheapest days to fly out
If you’re new to booking flights, this one might sound a bit odd. But after you’ve been on a few big trips, this will become second nature to you.
Airlines tend to plan their domestic and international routes and the days they fly out based on demand. If most people who want to fly from Cleveland to Kansas City want to make that trip on a Saturday, the airline will likely add a couple of extra planes on that route every Saturday to make it more convenient for those passengers.
But convenience comes at a cost — literally.
Generally speaking, an airline will charge more for tickets on the most popular days to fly simply because they know they can get away with it. Meanwhile, less popular days to fly will get priced down so that the airlines can still fill seats for already scheduled flights.
Translation: if you want to fly cheaply as a student, fly on an unpopular day.
If you’re able to fly during the working week, this is normally cheaper than flying on the weekends. Experts say that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are normally the cheapest days to fly — but it’s possible to score some Saturday bargains every once in a while. Statistically speaking, the most expensive day to fly is Friday.
Most airline websites and online flight sites offer a calendar view that shows you the cheapest days to fly out over the next week, month, or even for the whole year.
Don’t be picky about where you’re going
OK, so this tip doesn’t work if you absolutely need to get up to New York City or Costa Rica for a wedding on a certain day. But if you just want to get out of town for spring break or winter break and don’t care where you end up, you could be in for quite a bargain.
Simply go onto an airline’s website (or a flight comparison site), select your departure airport, choose a date, and then leave your destination blank. There are thousands of destinations out there, and one of them might turn out to be your dream destination.
You’ll then get to choose from everything the airline company has to offer — whether it’s a flight to San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, San Diego, or Singapore. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up avoiding peak booking times and spotting a cheap seat on an off-peak flight to someplace really amazing.
If you go this route, just make sure to keep an open mind. You might have your heart set on a trip to one of your favorite travel destinations. But if that’s what you can afford, and you’re up for an adventure, give it a go. Chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
There are a lot of airlines out there, and many of them fly the same routes on a daily basis. That being said, they don’t all charge the same flight prices. No matter where it is you want to go, chances are there’s a discount airline out there that will get you on a cheaper flight.
The key is shopping around. Do your research and check out loads of different airline sites before committing. You should also check out more than one comparison site. Believe it or not, you can often get cheaper tickets on the same flight on particular websites.
This is all about partnerships and affiliate student flight deals the airlines have struck with comparison sites. Then again, there are also a few airlines out there that always offer cheaper deals on student flights if you book directly on their website.
Use a student travel agency
Suppose you can’t be bothered scouring the entire web for cheap student flights. In that case, there are a few really good specialist student travel agencies out there designed to cater to university students and people under 25 in particular.
Booking with a student travel agency makes your travel research process a whole lot easier because these agencies are used to working with young people on a daily basis.
That means they’re more likely to have a good idea of the type of flight package you'll need and what you’d probably like to do on a foreign vacation. They also often have flash sales where you can scoop up an affordable college student flight.
More importantly, agencies will know which airlines and hotels have amazing flight deals or give a discount on affordable flights that you can be taking advantage of. A lot of them will also have affiliate deals with particular airlines or hotels to get exclusive student travel deals to both domestic and international destinations that can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
Those who don’t ask don’t get — and more often than not, students are able to save more than other flyers. But the biggest savings you stand to gain isn’t just about where you book or what day you fly on.
It all boils down to student discounts.
Do airlines have student discounts?
Shopping around for off-peak tickets is all well and good. But sometimes, you just want to go where you want to go. This is where student discounts become a real lifesaver.
A lot of big airline companies offer cheap student fares for college students and other young travelers. There are even a few discount airlines out there that cater primarily to students.
In some cases, getting your hands on a student discount will require you to provide additional information at the booking stage. This will help the airline confirm that you’re really a college student — opening up the door to a cheap flight.
That being said, many airlines offer student discounts based on your age rather than whether you’re actually in school. This means you’ll often be able to score an automatic discount.
In other cases, you may need to enter a student discount code or promo code as part of the online purchase process. Sometimes, these are clearly marked on the airline’s website. Other times, you may need to verify your student status with a third-party partner in order to get the voucher code you need.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that discounted student fares don’t just mean you can fly cheaply.
You can normally expect to get a few extra student perks, including additional baggage allowance, flexible date change, and longer ticket validity. That means you could book student discount flights out to school at the start of the academic year and then book in advance by up to 12 months.
Which airlines offer student discounts?
There are dozens of commercial airlines in America and hundreds across the globe. Not all of those airline companies offer student discounts, while others stick with special or seasonal deals for student travelers.
But there are quite a few airlines in the US and abroad that offer really attractive (and steady) student discounts to help college students score cheap flights. To help you get started on your search for the perfect budget holiday, we’ll walk you through nine of the best student discount airlines.
1. United Airlines
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane to or from North America, chances are you’ve flown with United Airlines at one point or another. Every day, United and its partner airlines operate a range of flights spanning about 4,900 flights a day to 362 airports on six continents.
Fortunately, United Airlines isn’t just a big airline company — it also offers a flight discount on flights for students. Best of all, you don’t have to prove to United that you’re enrolled at any particular college or school.
United’s student discount is age-based. That means if you’re between 18 and 22 years old, you can get an automatic 5% flight discount on any destination.
To qualify for the United Airlines student discount and get a cheaper fare, you’ll need to register as a MileagePlus member. You also need to book directly with United using the United app (rather than a comparison site).
At the moment, this discount is live until June 30, 2022. But United tends to review its student discount and relaunch annually — so you shouldn’t have to worry about it disappearing anytime soon.
2. American Airlines
American Airlines is another big name and reliable carrier you’re probably familiar with. Alongside its sister airline American Eagle, American Airlines pilots about 6,700 flights per day to around 350 cities in 50 different countries.
If you join the AAdvantage program as a student, you’ll be able to get a special discount if you’re currently attending one of the US universities that participate in the program. There are quite a few colleges enrolled in the program, and you can select your school and get your discount off standard fares as part of the online booking process.
Lufthansa is the top German carrier — and when combined with all of its sister airlines, it’s the second-largest carrier in Europe. Lufthansa operates more than 390,000 flights every year to 74 international travel destinations.
That means if you’re considering a summer trip to Europe, Lufthansa offers exclusive deals for students.
Lufthansa has its own site dedicated to international student travelers called GenerationFly. GenerationFly offers amazing deals and discounts on standard fares. But when you book through GenerationFly, you’ll also get additional baggage allowance and flexible travel dates.
4. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines offers student discount fares aimed at a slightly more niche audience, but it’s a pretty good flight deal if you're eligible.
Hawaiian Airlines gives a 5% discount on transpacific flights to all students flying to Hawaii for the purpose of going to school. Alongside that discount, you’ll also get two free checked bags and a more flexible booking policy that makes it easier to move departure dates around after booking.
You must be going to either Chaminade University, Hawaii Pacific University (HPU), or the University of Hawai‘i (UH) to qualify for this discount.
That being said, it’s worth noting that you don’t need to be from Hawaii to get the discount. It’s available for all Hawaiian, mainland, or international students going to school in Hawaii.
5. Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines is one of America’s most well-established budget airlines — and for the first part of 2022, they let college students fly free. However, there are a couple of caveats you need to bear in mind with this type of deal.
To qualify for a free student ticket, you had to purchase your fare before March 23, 2022. The deal was accessible via a promo code, which entitled one student to fly one-way or round-trip on qualifying flights and dates.
Frontier’s “Students Fly Free” program is only available if you book directly with the carrier. Be sure to look out for similar deals in the future.
6. British Airways
British Airways (BA) is another iconic name you’ve probably heard of — and if you’re studying abroad or vacationing in the UK, British Airways offers a generous student discount.
As a college student, you can get a student discount worth 10% of your total fare. This discount program typically coincides with the start of the academic year, and BA student tickets are valid for one year.
In addition to a 10% discount, you can also get a free additional piece of luggage (up to a weight of 23 kg), as well as flexible date changes.
Serving over 1.2 million flyers from its hub in Dubai, Emirates is the world’s largest international airline. But it also caters to students with special discount codes.
If you were a college student able to book a flight with Emirates by March 31, 2022, you could get a 10% discount on both Economy Class and Business Class fares. All you had to do was select your itinerary and then use the promo code “STUDENT” when checking out. This deal was only available for a limited time, but keep an eye out for similar deals in the future.
Alongside your student discount, you’ll get either 10 kg added to your baggage allowance or one extra piece of luggage (whichever you prefer). You can also get the ability to change your travel options later — but to qualify, you’ll need to present a valid student ID or school acceptance letter when you arrive at airport check-in for your flight.
8. Cathay Pacific
Based out of Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific offers flights for students to the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, or the Chinese mainland.
When you book directly through Cathay Pacific as a college student, you’ll be able to see exclusive fares. Unlike a lot of other student discount airlines, Cathay Pacific doesn’t tend to offer a flat rate student discount. Discounted student fares vary based on availability.
Depending on your destination, a student ticket fare with Cathay Pacific also comes with an extra baggage allowance.
9. Turkish Airlines
If you’re flying overseas, Turkish Airlines is another big international carrier that offers great exclusive discounts on flights.
As a student, you can get a discount of 10% on most international flights. But if you’re flying domestically within Turkey, you can get a 20% discount. Turkish Airlines also has special discount student fares on one-way international flights.
Students also get a free 40 kg bag on flights and can change their flight for free without getting penalized or paying an additional charge.
As a new member of the Turkish Airlines frequent flier program, you’ll also get an extra 1,000 airline miles as a welcome gift.
It’s important to note this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of other big airlines out there like Delta and Southwest Airlines, which offer student deals through affiliate programs and active promo codes rather than through an internal student discount program.
Just remember that these deals aren’t always very well promoted. A wide range of airlines offer student discount fares to college travelers and other young people — but you might need to do a flight search and ask around to uncover those deals.
Want to connect instantly with some of the globe’s top airline discounts for students? Be sure to keep an eye on CouponFollow for specific college coupon codes that you can use to save cash.