Published: November 22, 2016 | Updated: November 11, 2019 | Posted by: Moritz Gastl | Personal Finance
If you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you could save big on your next flight. While there is no one-stop-shop solution for finding the best flight deal and you need to put some effort in time in finding the cheapest price, it can offer you great benefits and give you more cash to spend on your actual trip.
Just think about it: if you’re booking a flight through a travel agency, they will always take a cut. While this might be a viable business model in more complex industries, booking a flight is very straightforward and information is readily available online. It is a common misconception that agents have access to cheaper flights. This might be true for some big agencies but most local travel agents add their own commission onto your flight and therefore make it more expensive. They are also less flexible when it comes to your airline of choice as agents are usually partnered with only one or two airlines. A rule of thumb is to refrain from booking domestic flights through travel agents and get a quotation for long-haul flights but compare those to the prices online.
Has it ever happened to you that you were looking for a flight and after a few searches, the price of the flight increases? No, you’re not crazy and this happens to many customers as flight prices do increase based on the cookies in your browser when a particular route is repeatedly searched. This is to scare you into buying the flight before the prices get even higher. To avoid this from happening, always search for flights in an incognito / private browsing mode to make sure your cookies were reset and to get the cheapest price. Another alternative is to use a VPN as some companies adjust the prices based on the country you are in but also based on the device you are using. For instance, your flight may be more expensive if you use an Apple iPad than using a cheaper Asus ZenPad.
Flexibility always pays off! There are some theories around booking specifically on a Tuesday to save money but, in reality, there is no truth to this and there isn’t a “best” day to book flights. However, it pays off to have a quick glance at prices for the whole week or even month to see is the prices differ. Most airlines and intermediaries allow you to view the prices by month or week. Often you find flights on weekdays to be slightly cheaper than flights on weekends. Another important aspect is of course how far in advance you book your flights. Don’t make the mistake and book flights too early as most algorithms for airline pricing won’t go beyond 2 or 3 months before the actual flight date and instead give you a simple baseline price. However, this also applies in the other direction. Don’t book your flights on the day of departure if possible. If you know when and where you’re going, don’t wait to book as it rarely gets cheaper.
While this sounds intuitive, many don’t think about checking flights from nearby airports. Take Manila, for example. The vast majority flies out from NAIA but for some destinations but Clark International Airport is sometimes the much better option. Manila has only two main options but if you want to travel to Europe, you have plenty of options to choose from. The benefit is not only a cheaper price but you also get to see an additional city on your travels. Italy is a good example. Most tourists fly into Milan or Rome, but traveling to Bologna or Venice can sometimes be the cheaper option. If you are even more flexible, then consider the next tip (5).
If you’re flying somewhere that involves a transfer (which is the case for most long-haul flights departing from Manila), consider that it may be cheaper to book your legs separately and even add another destination to your itinerary. Please keep in mind though to not book layovers too tight. Doing this usually involves a lot of research but can certainly pay off and save you a lot of money. The first thing you should check is if there are any budget airlines unique to the country you’re flying out of and where you’re headed to. Booking with a budget airline from Manila to Hong Kong, then book a flight to almost anywhere in the world will cost you almost certainly less because Hong Kong & Singapore are regional airport hubs. However, I hope it goes without saying that booking a one-way flight with a big airline rarely makes sense and whenever you fly with a budget airline, factor in the additional costs for your baggage.
Budget airlines most often offer significantly cheaper tickets than their full-service counterparts. Yes, there are downsides as well. Low-cost airlines offer less legroom, charge for basically everything extra, and often lack customer service. But at the end of the day, the actual transportation is the service that counts. If you book your flight through intermediaries (Expedia, Skyscanner, Kayak, Momondo, etc.), be aware that they often do not feature budget airlines. Skyscanner, for example, only compares AirAsia and Jetstar in the Philippines but does not take Cebu Pacific flights into consideration. While it is not such a big problem in Asia, you should check the airport location of your budget flight before booking. Some budget airlines such as Ryanair in Europe fly to airports further out of town (and sometimes a few hours away). It is also recommendable to sign up for the newsletters of low-cost carriers and follow them on Facebook to be the first to know about promotions and discounts.
Last but not least, the most important aspect of finding the cheapest flight for your next trip is to compare prices and options. Even if a price is seemingly low, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t save even more. This is especially true for special offers of discount carriers. They are being heavily advertised and widely considered to be the cheapest and best offers. But very few still compare prices once they see a deceiving offer from Cebu Pacific or Air Asia. While the offers are often great, it sometimes pays off to still compare and double-check whether other airlines have cheaper prices available. Pay attention again to the additional costs of adding baggage or in-flight meals. Sometimes a flight on Philippine Airlines can be cheaper than the equivalent Cebu Pacific flight if you factor in all the costs. Comparing can not only save you money on flights but on almost all other aspects of life such as financial products, hotels, groceries and many, many more.