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International > Ten tips to get the cheapest air tickets

Ten tips to get the cheapest air tickets

With about 3 billion passengers enplaned yearly in the world and about 100,000 daily commercial flights, the air ticket market is a huge business. It is worth knowing how to get the cheapest air tickets. 

Booking the flight at the best time, searching it in the right way, and traveling on the cheapest days are some of the key factors to get the best deals. Hereunder are the top ten tips to buy the cheapest air tickets. 

The tips concern roundtrips in economy class since prices of first class cabins may be determined by other factors. The case of one-way trips has been analyzed in another article.

1. Book early.

The main international airlines release flight schedules and related airfares for the next eleven or twelve months, with some airlines making them available one to four months later.

Eight to twelve months before you go on trip, the details of some discount airlines may be still unavailable, the market is not fully competitive. Airfares that have already been released may be a bit inflated.

As competition increases, prices go down. They are at the bottom 6 to 4 months before takeoff. This is the best time for you to buy your air ticket, particularly if you travel to foreign countries.If you are looking for US domestic flights, you may still find cheap deals about 2 to 3 months before takeoff. 

Anyway, the airlines limit the amount of seats available at the lowest fares. As the date of the flight approaches and seat availability goes down, prices go up. You should buy before prices soar. Lastminute bookings are currently very expensive.
 
This is a basic tip which must be tailored to the specific conditions of your trip. Read more about "When is the best time to book a cheap flight?".


2. When possible, don’t travel in peak seasons.

Airfares depend also upon when you travel. When is the best time to travel at low prices?

Just like prices of other goods and services, airfares are determined by supply and demand. Demand surges in some periods of the year and then airfares go up, sometimes quite dramatically.  

Worldwide peak seasons in the air ticket market include the Northern Hemisphere summer and the end of year. Then, flights are expensive in the whole world. In addition, there are many regional peak seasons such as Thanksgiving Day in the USA, Lunar New Year in China, and the school holidays in most countries. Furthermore, most tourist destinations experience peak seasons which are determined by holiday trends and local climate conditions.

If you are looking for cheap flights, don’t travel in peak seasons whenever possible. When you have no choice but travel in peak seasons, follow our tips so that you do not pay too much for your flight. Read more about "When are the cheapest times to travel? High and low seasons in air travel". 

3. Have flexible travel dates.  

Throughout the whole year, airfares vary also depending on the date and hour of the flight in response to suply or demand for that flight. Therefore, you may often save some money if you may travel 1 or 2 days sooner or later. Midweek (Tuesday to Thursday) flights are mostly cheaper than weekend (Friday to Monday) flights.

Check the prices for the journey on different days that may suit you. Travel on the cheapest day.

If an airline offers different flights to your destination on the same day, they have often different prices. The less popular flights are usually the cheapest ones. Choose them if time is not an issue for you and you are looking just for the cheapest deals. 

4. Compare airfares from different airlines.
 

Comparing the different flights available in the market for your trip is the ABC’s of getting cheap air tickets.  Even though you have a preference for an airline, it is always worth taking a look at what the other airlines offer.   

When you are planning a trip, there are mostly many more paths than you may imagine. Between San Francisco and Boston, for instance, the cheapest flight is daily to be found among about 2000 quick paths.  

Various online tools can instantly compare available flights for your journey. As a matter of fact, there are two kinds of comparison tools: 

-- The simple comparison tools (also known as flight search engines), such as Kayak, Skyscanner, Google flights, and Bing travel, which compare flights from different suppliers (airlines or online travel agencies) and then forward you to the seller’s site where you can book your flight, sometimes at a price that may have changed in the meantime. 

-- The online travel agencies, such as Expedia, Orbitz, Lastminute.com, Opodo, Travelocity, and Ebookers, which compare flights from different airlines and then actually can sell you the selected flight. 

Both are very powerful tools. You cannot do without. 

However, don’t waste your time in visiting countless comparison sites. Most of them use the same softwares. For instance, Kayak, Orbitz, Google, Bing, and many more work with the ITA software.  Don’t rely on unknown travel sites which may produce misleading results.

5. Consider traveling with low cost or charter airlines.

The air ticket market has changed dramatically for a decade with the spectacular development of low cost and charter airlines. 

Low cost airlines, such as Southwest, Frontier, Spirit, Allegiant Air, Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Transavia, Germanwings, Wizz Air, Air Asia, and many more in the world, offer basic services at low fares on short-haul and medium-haul flights. Also known as budget or discount airlines, they charge for extras like food and baggage. They often fly to and from secondary airports.  Most of them sell air tickets only through their own websites. 

Charter airlines, such as Thomas Cook Airlines, Jetairfly, Thomson Airways, Monarch Airlines, Condor, TUIfly, and (partly) Corsair, are mostly affiliated to tour operators that provide holiday packages, hotel booking and other travel-related services. They sell also mere air tickets. They offer mainly seasonal flights to tourist destinations. 

The low cost and charter airlines are not (or not fully) included in most comparison tools. 

Anyway, airfares from these airlines cannot be compared with those of legacy or flag carriers in a simple way for the following reasons. First, most low cost airlines fly to secondary and sometimes remote airports while legacy and flag carriers fly to more developed airports, including international airports. By the way, this is also why low cost flights may rarely be connected with a long haul flight.

Second, low cost airlines and to some extent charter airlines charge extra fees for various services (e.g. baggage) or booking fees that are usually included in the airfares of legacy and flag carriers.   

Therefore, you should always check if and at what price low cost or charter airlines operate flights on the route you are looking for. If so, pay attention to above-mentioned features. 

If you have heavy baggage, request additional services or do not follow correctly the recommended booking procedure, your low cost flight may be more expensive than a flight with a legacy airline. This happens often.

6. Fly to or from another airport.

Charges and taxes which are included in airfares vary quite a lot from an airport to another.  In addition, price policies of airlines (e.g. in connection of their hub or the hub of their competitors) may also make flights to an airport cheaper than those to a nearby airport.  

Therefore it is always worth to compare air tickets to and from nearby airports, if any.

7. Pay attention to cookie and IP tracking, if any.

Most of the websites you are browsing use technical cookies to identify you so that they can offer you better services. Cookies don’t carry viruses. They track your activity. In most cases, cookies are helpful.  

However, some websites may use them in order to trick you into buying their services or products promptly. When you visit these sites with the same searches many times, they may raise their prices in order to prompt you to buy without further delay. 

If they do not use cookies, they may track your IP address for the same purpose. 

Those bad practices become less frequent. Nevertheless, if you repeatedly visit the same site with the same activity and then you watch a sudden rise of prices (and/or a drop of available seats), it is worth checking first the offer with another computer. 

Anyway, searching the same flight repeatedly for a long time is not recommended. As explained above, airfares rarely go down. You should book your flight as soon as possible.


 

8. Watch carefully the final amount you are charged. 

a) Some travel agencies quote first prices before taxes and charges in order to prompt you to book your trip with them.  This is a wrong practice. It happens less often now.  

In fact, this is prohibited in the European Union since published prices for a service must legally include the fare and all applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable. In addition, details of the different components of the price must be given (Regulation 1008/2008/EC on air services). This still leaves room for some other extra charges. Furthermore, laws in other countries may be not so strict.

Anyway, when booking online, watch carefully the final amount you are charged for your journey. You should avoid using websites that show misleading information about their tariff.  

b) Don’t buy useless extra services.  

Many airlines offer additional services such as travel insurance, car parking, transfer to airport, and more. Some airlines charge you also for some services such as seat reservation or priority boarding. 

When booking online, always uncheck optional services you do not need. Buy only the extra services you actually need.
 
9. Decline ancillary offers from third parties.

Despite incredible growth, airlines experience very low (less than 2 % in 2013) profit margins. In order to increase their earnings, many airlines offer hotel booking, car rentals, and other travel-related services. 

These offerings are mere advertising. These services are operated by third parties. They are not better or cheaper than those you may find online elsewhere. If you search similar services in the web, you can mostly get a wider range of services to better suit your needs and budget.

Furthermore, those offerings from the airlines may be misleading since they are governed by the terms and conditions of the third party service provider (not those of the airline).

Similarly, you should decline combined offers (such as flight + hotel) from an online travel agency for similar reasons. You find a much wider choice of accommodations with specialized hotel booking sites than with the combined flight + hotel package. 

10. Take advantage of frequent-flyer programs and, if any, coupons. 

a) Most promotional actions of the airlines are rather disappointing. Airlines have so many different airfare levels that they may always offer you so-called promotional air tickets that you might anyway get if you meet the related requirements. Nevertheless, if you have a flight coupon or promo code that airlines offer from time to time, don’t hesitate to use it.

Airlines and travel agencies offer also price alerts which inform you of any change of the air ticket you are looking for. You will probably get many (often too many) alerts. The alerts are often misleading, once again because airlines have many different airfare levels. Only a few alerts actually offer good deals. Most others provide you with fares on dates that previously weren’t eligible for that level or (more often) with rates that you may be able anyway to find in the marketSigning in to price alerts may also sometimes lead you to delay booking and pay higher prices later on. As a matter of fact, price alerts are a marketing technique aiming to keep you captive of the company that provides you with the alerts.

b) Frequent-flyer programs. 

Many airlines offer a loyalty program, the so-called frequent-flyer program. Usually the benefits of such a program are extended to the partner airlines. 

Large airlines (except low cost airlines) cooperate indeed with others within a few major airline alliances. They share various services, including customer loyalty program, with the other members of the alliance.

As for passenger traffic, the three largest alliances are Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and Oneworld. 

Star alliance includes mainly Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Swiss International, TAP Portugal, LOT, SAS, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Air Canada, Asiana Thai Airways International, Air China, Shenzhen Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Thai Airways, Copa Airlines, South African Airways and several other airlines. It is the oldest and largest alliance. 

OneWorld includes American Airlines, Air Berlin, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, LAN Airlines, S7 Airlines, LAN Colombia, TAM Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines, and Qatar Airways. 

SkyTeam includes Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air France, Alitalia, KLM, Czech Airlines, TAROM, Delta Airlines, Korean, China Airlines, China Southern, China Eastern, Middle East Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Viet Nam Airlines, Kenya Airways and several other airlines. 

You earn faster miles if you travel with the airlines of the same alliance.

April 2014  © WillGoTo.


Links

Compare air tickets
Here you can find some of the best comparison sites which help you find and book the cheapest flights.
When is the best time to book a cheap flight?
Airfares change continuously. When you are looking for the cheapest deals, it may help you to know the best time to book a flight.
When is the cheapest time to travel? High and low seasons in air travel
Airfares depend heavily on the time when the flight takes place. The most dramatic changes arise from the surge of demand in particular periods.
How to get one-way air tickets at a cheap price?
You can find and book easily cheap one-way flights provided that you follow the right way.
Open-jaw and multi-destination air tickets, Air pass, Open-ended air tickets
Airports far away from city center
International and regional airports may be located far away from the city they are named after. Find here a guide to remote airports.
Back to the previous page: click here
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With about 3 billion passengers enplaned yearly in the world and about 100,000 daily commercial flights, the air ticket market is a huge business. It is worth knowing how to get the cheapest air tickets.