Crafty ways to cut the cost of flights
Most of us know at least one person that miraculously always seem to get a great deal on flights. It can be pretty galling to hear about people who enjoy cut-price holidays when you’ve paid over the odds.
But, with these tricks of the trade, it is possible to get a bargain flight and boost your spending holiday money.
Where to find cheaper flights
There are a number of ways you can hunt out bargain flights. Screenscrapers work like shop bots comparing the prices of flights across different providers.
Kayak.co.uk, skyscanner.net and travelsupermarket.co.uk all allow users to search for the cheapest flights to their desired destinations. Because no one website lists all the airlines, make sure you use at least a couple of screenscrapers.
You could also use a flight broker. These types of websites have a commercial relationship with the airlines listed – the benefit for passengers is that there are often special rates on offer that aren’t available on the airline’s own website.
Cheapflights.co.uk, meanwhile, describes itself as a "publisher of deals" with flights sourced from airlines and travel agents.
Sites such as expedia.co.uk and travelocity.co.uk are good for long–haul destinations.
When to book
The second consideration is when you should book. Generally speaking, if it’s just a flight you’re after, you’re advised to book as early as possible, although some airlines will cut the price of seats on flights they are struggling to fill.
Bob Atkinson, travel expert at travelsupermarket.com, says this will depend on the airline.
Low-cost flights with carriers such as easyJet, Monarch and Ryanair rarely drop their prices just before the departure - instead, prices get higher and higher towards the departure date.
However, these airlines do have sales, although these aren’t normally linked to the departure date.
“The best way to take advantage is to sign up to their newsletters,” he says. “You should also remember that cheap flights will often only leave on weekdays rather than peak days such as Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
On the other hand, scheduled flights – for example, on British Airways – tend to bring in their sales and promotions as the departure date nears in order to shift seats. Again, signing up for newsletters is the best way to find out about last-minute sales.
Charter flights, through players such as thomsonfly or flythomascook, operate to destinations that package tour operators feature and aim to fill every seat on every flight. Atkinson says prices tend to start higher but there is no guarantee whether the cost will increase or fall down the line.
Second-guess the airlines
There is a trick you can try to attempt to second-guess whether a flight is likely to reduce in price. Try keying in different party sizes on a booking website to see how many seats there may be at tour price.
“Airlines tend to sell only so many seats at each price level,” explains Atkinson. “So, if there are four of you travelling you may want to key in for one passenger but also do a search for four passengers and see if the price per person is different.”
If there is a difference in price, then this suggests there are fewer seats available at the lower price – in this case, it’s worth booking as soon as possible. “Most airlines will only allow you to search for between four and nine seats online, although easyJet will allow you to search up to 40 seats,” says Atkinson.
If you are travelling en-masse, then another trick is to search for tickets separately as well as in a group. You may find that three individuals tickets are cheaper per person than a booking for three people. Of course, this is not always the case and also runs the risk of the price changing while you are making the booking.
The time of day you book can also affect the price you pay. Airlines often release their discounted tickets during the night, typically between midnight and 3am.
Getting a good deal on a flight often comes down to timing – the time you book the flight is key, but equally the time you want to travel will also affect the price.
The more flexible you are with the date and timing of your flight, the greater the chance you will have of picking up a bargain. However, if you don’t fancy getting up before dawn in order to catch an early flight, it’s probably worth paying a bit extra and enjoying a lie-in.
Once you’ve found the right tickets for you, you’d be wise to be on your guard for extra costs that airlines sneak in. On top of paying for flights, customers now have the dubious privilege of paying a fee in return for being able to pay by credit or debit card.
However, some airlines will waive this fee if you pay on Visa Electron or a pre-paid card. While you could save money, remember the benefit of paying by credit card is that you’ll be covered under the Consumer Credit Act.
Also bear in mind that airlines add on optional expenses at the end of your booking such as insurance, cover for sports equipment and priority boarding. If you don’t want them ensure you de-select them.
Finally, remember that check–in costs nothing if you do it online with some airlines but will set you back at the airport. If you are just going away for the weekend and can avoid taking a lot of luggage then you can save yourself more money too.
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