How to find a cheap flight

24 December 2008

The sales on the high street are not the only discounts being offered at this time of year - airlines are also slashing the costs of flights.

Budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair are offering plenty of heavily discounted flights, with the latter listing an extensive range of free flights.

And more upmarket alternatives are also reducing the price tags of certain destinations in a bid to encourage people to book that Easter or summer holiday. However, managing to bag a cheaper (or even free) flight is easier said than done.

Moneywise’s tips, however, should help you get the best deal possible.

1. Book early

Unlike package holidays, it’s always best to book flights as far in advance as possible. Being flexible about departure dates and times should also give you more of a chance of getting a cheaper deal.

2. Use Screenscrapers

Screenscrapers work like shop bots comparing the prices of flights across different providers.,, and 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 screenscrapers.

3. Or flight brokers

Flight brokers differ from screenscrapers because their websites have a commercial relationship with the airlines listed. The benefits of this is that they will often display special rates not available on the airline’s own website. However, screenscrapers are likely to pick up on these offers as well. Sites such as and are good for long–haul destinations.

4. Email lists

Sign up to email lists with the various screenscrapers and flightbrokers as well as the airlines directly to hear about the special offers as soon as they come out. 5. Protect yourself Pay by credit card. That way if anything goes wrong then you can claim your money back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit act.

6. Electron card

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, if you pay by electron you can bypass these fees and cut about a £5 off your bill. Admittedly it’s not the biggest amount of money but getting an electron card costs you nothing.

7. Look out for extra costs

It’s not unusual for a ‘free’ flight to quickly cost £60 due to tax and the numerous extra charges that the airlines tack on at the last minute. Check–in costs nothing if you do it online with ryanair but £10 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.

Checking in with one bag at the airport costs £30 compared to nothing with hand luggage, if you check in online. Easyjet claims to include “all taxes and charges” in its prices; however, there are still additional expenses added on at the end and optional extras such as insurance, additional cover for sports equipment and priority boarding are automatically added to your total price to pay so if you don’t want them ensure you de-select them.

8. Package Holidays

If you are going to a popular destination such as Thailand or Croatia, package holidays often offer the cheapest deals. If you don’t fancy buffet breakfasts and fighting over the prime sunloungers at the hotel pool, book a package deal then book separate accommodation – the longer–haul destination packages can be cheaper than flights alone with a major carrier such as Virgin or BA.

Booking through a travel agent also means that your booking will be ATOL protected – this protection prevents customers from being stranded abroad or from losing money if a travel firm goes bust.

9. Go where your money will go further

It’s all very well finding a great deal on a flight but given the pound’s decreasing value against the euro, once you get to your destination your money might not go as far as you would hope. There are countries whose currencies are performing even worse than the UK’s though: Iceland, Mexico, South Africa and Bulgaria are a few.

10. Research, research, research has a 75% sale on flights, easyjet is having a new years sale with flights from £22.99 and Ryanair is ‘giving away’ free flights but once you start putting in your specific requirements these glossy offers seemingly disappear so be prepared to shop around.

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