This week on FAQ Friday we discuss the ins and outs of how to find the cheapest flights.
Welcome to another edition of FAQ Fridays from Travelstart with me Nick Paul.
Today we are going to be talking about how to find the cheapest flights. This is a very big question, it’s almost impossible to cover everything in one video, but I will do my best to cover the main points.
We get asked this question a lot and the confusion around it is understandable; you’re hearing some people telling you that booking long in advance is best and you’ll hear others who say that airlines will sell tickets at a discount price a couple of days before departure. Who’s right? How do you get the lowest price?
Let’s start with the ones who say you need to book a long time in advance.
They’re talking the truth, mostly. Airlines break the prices of tickets on a flight into several “classes” these classes are charged at different rates but are nothing to do with Economy Class, Business Class or First Class, these are price classes (booking class). In general the cheaper the booking class, the more restrictive the fare is. This means that changes will cost more, you may not be able to cancel the ticket and so on. Now because the majority of people prefer cheaper tickets and because travel agencies tend to offer customers the cheapest flights, the cheaper classes sell out faster. The closer you get to the date of departure, the higher the price should be – mostly.
Now what about the guys who claim that last minute tickets are cheaper?
This can be true sometimes, but in general is not true. Airlines have a practice known as dynamic pricing which allows them to adjust availability of the price classes at the drop of the hat. They base the price on current, historical and predicted demand for flight tickets. Generally they have it worked out pretty well, so rarely need to drop prices right before a flight as people who need to travel last minute will usually pay anything to travel. And the final nail in coffin for this theory is that airlines regularly oversell flights, meaning they sell more tickets than are available to make up for people who don’t show for their flights and make a bit of extra profit.
What is the best time to travel?
This is a bit easier to get info for. For local flights avoid travelling on Monday mornings, Thursday evenings, Fridays or Sunday evenings, if you’re looking for the cheapest flights.
For international flights, avoiding Friday through Sunday should get you a cheaper ticket, some airlines charge a surcharge for flying on the weekend.
Try avoiding the popular holiday seasons, for example over the festive season or the Northern Hemisphere summer school holidays. Certain destinations might have higher fares too, dependent on festivals, religious holidays or different seasons. For example, travelling to South America near the beginning of March will be pricey due to the Rio Carnival, travelling to Italy anywhere near Easter will see you dueling with a billion Catholics for a cheap ticket and travelling to Australia at any point over it’s lengthy summer (from November to March) could see you paying an extra arm or leg.
So my advice to you is:
- Research your destination
- Use a site like Travelstart to compare multiple options in one place to help you pick not only the right priced flight, but also the best flight for your needs, 20 hours sleeping on the floor in a Middle Eastern airport may not your best option if it’s only R100 less.
- Keep tabs on flight prices, if you’re comfortable with the flight price you’re seeing then book, if you’re not, check back in a week, if the price is going up rather book than wait.
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