“Different airline ticket providers – from the big online agencies to local travel providers – simply don’t have access to all of the same airlines, flights, availability and pricing. So no single airline, consolidator or agency will always have the lowest airfare, nor will they always have the best selection of airline tickets. You have to weigh your options,” explains Andrew Shelton, MD of Cheapflights.
“We always suggest that travellers be as flexible as possible,” continues Shelton. “It’s all about supply and demand. Some departure times are more popular – and more expensive – than others. While cheap plane tickets are available at peak times, you generally have to book far in advance.”
Here are six tips on how to find the cheapest flights:
Consider alternative airports
Shelton advises considering other airports in the area when comparing options.
“While one airport may be a go-to because of convenience, you’ll never know how much you could save if you flew out of (or into) another airport nearby. For example, when flying from Port Elizabeth, consider other airports like George and East London, and when heading to a destination like New York, consider all your options – JFK, LaGuardia and even Newark.”
Choose your dates wisely
Everyone wants to depart at 7pm on a Friday night, which means that those flights tend to become quite pricey very quickly. The same goes for Saturday mornings or any other time when it’s the most convenient for the majority of travellers.
Those who can make it work for their schedule should try flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, rather than on the weekend. Overnight flights are another great way to save – not only are they often cheaper, but there’s no need to pay for accommodation for the night in the air. Select a window seat, bring a neck pillow and try to get some zzzs.
Fly on public holidays
Travelling over a public holiday? Consider swapping a pre-public holiday flight for a flight on the actual day. Not only will it likely save money, but it’ll help you dodge some of those who have the same travel plans.
Pick a deal, not a destination
Don’t settle on one destination until you see what’s out there. Looking for a beach holiday? Don’t limit yourself to Ibiza.
“If you know the type of trip you want to take (be it a beach holiday, a long weekend in a city, a ski trip or an outdoorsy adventure), there may be destinations with all that on offer for much less than the destination you originally had in mind. Do some research, compare your options and you’ll likely walk away with a trip booked that ticks all your boxes and leaves money in your pocket,” says Shelton.
Pick the perks that matter to you
Finding the absolute lowest airfare can be rewarding, but there are other factors to consider, like value – the overall mix of price, quality and convenience. Before shopping, it makes sense to decide what’s most important.
It might be a really cheap plane ticket, but do you want to stop and change planes several times? Some airlines are more comfortable and provide more in-flight amenities than others, while budget carriers strip away the perks so they can charge less per seat.
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Budget airlines (and the comparable basic economy fares offered by many of the bigger airlines) typically offer bare-bone fares with a low price tag, but no perks. While that may not be for everyone, if you can travel light, this could mean an extremely cheap flight. That said, read the fine print prior to booking to see what’s included in the ticket price.
You’ve got mail
Newsletters and email alerts are a great way to stay up to date on fare sales and travel deals. Flash sales and last-minute flight deals can provide unmatched savings and signing up for travel email alerts is one way to make sure you don’t miss them when they pop up.
It’s not hard to find cheap flights when you’re well informed and well connected, so take the time to do the research before you book that ticket.