How To Find The Cheapest Flights – FAQ Fridays

This week on FAQ Friday we discuss the ins and outs of how to find the cheapest flights.

Video Transcription

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.

Lastly, please subscribe to our channel if you would like to see more of these updates and if you have any travel related questions please ask them in the comments below. Who knows, we may turn them into a video.

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Our Readers Comments

  1. Question: Does Travelstart have an app for android phones? If yes where can I find it, if no how soon can you guys develop one?

    • Hi Anele, yes – there is an app in the pipeline

  2. Can you kindly quote me return for Scotland (Glasgow)

    • Price depends on where you travel from in SA and when you travel. To give you an example from Johannesburg, a round trip ticket in September, traditionally a cheaper time to travel, will cost from around R8812 including taxes. Click http://www.travelstart.co.za to find and book flights online or call our agents on 0861 878 278.

  3. Tell me more

    • What would you like to know, Mike?

  4. Very useful info . Tks.

  5. I would like to travel to Bhutan 2016, could you please give me any info regarding getting there & any tours available. Thanks

  6. Unlikely that you will publish this, but the number one tip for getting cheap flights is to NOT use sites such as Travelstart to book. Use them to track the trends and identify cheap days, times and routes to fly, and then book directly with the airlines. There are too many affiliations with sponsors, and a range of omissions to support your own gains such as higher commissions or advertising placement on site aggregators such as yours, and almost all major airlines now have a best price guarantee when booking directly through their corporate websites. Sure, for ease of use and peace of mind, Travelstart and the likes serve a valuable purpose, but cheap flights almost certainly is not one of them.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for the comment.

      A lot of what you say is true, but Travelstart has many value added services, which make booking with us easier, more time effective, and in many cases cheaper than booking through an airline directly.

      We have long standing relationships with airlines, which allow us to offer extremely competitive rates that we negotiate directly with them. We have an after-sales service teams who are ready to assist with any queries or changes which you might have. Many airlines cannot match our service levels. We also allow you to book numerous airline combinations within the same flight route, allowing you to get the best deal.

      Other optional extras that we offer such as flexible ticket bookings, airline liquidation policies, domestic baggage & accidental insurance and cancelation/refund policies make booking with us convenient and cost effective in terms of only having to enter your payment details once. On that note, we also accept payments in the form of credit card, eft, and bank deposit.

      We don’t charge airlines to be listed on our site and always list prices from cheapest first, so the results are never swayed by any relationship with airlines; they are only swayed by price. The price you see on our website is the price you pay as all of our fees are built into the price of the ticket. It’s only in case you’re needing other services in which you may pay extra, for example travel insurance, flexi-ticket and so on)

      Thank you again for your engaging comment.

      Regards

      Liam

  7. What is the best option to get from Croatia to Venice?

    It mustn’t be too expensive or take too long.

    • Hi Paul,

      Thank you for the question. I apologise for the delayed reply.

      It would depend on where in Croatia you will be.

      There are flights available from Dubrovnik to Venice. Please visit http://www.travelstart.co.za if you would like to book. Alternatively you can email travelbar@travelstart.com – they will be able to assist you in the booking process.

      If you are going to be in Pula you can take a ferry.

      If you are in Zagreb you can look into taking a bus to Venice.

      Please let us know if you have any more questions.

      -Liam

  8. Hi Liam I have used travelstart many times to do my travel bookings, but wud like to know if it wud be cheaper to use a UK based agency ,to book tickets for my daughter to come home from LHR to DUR or JNB- SA, for the holidays or wud it be about the same ?
    Thanks for your assistance
    Shelley-Anne

    • Hi Shelley-Anne,

      It sometimes can be – we suggest that you check both prices.

      If you child is a minor (15 years or younger) we will not be able to assist with the booking. (most travel agents will refer you directly to the airline in this case)

      If your daughter is an adult, Travelstart do offer useful extra’s such as flexible ticket booking, cancelation policies and insurance. Perhaps consider these extras when looking at other prices.

      Regards

      Liam

  9. I am interested in a round-the-world ticket for the end of next year. 2 adults and 2 kids. We are wanting to include Singapore, New Zealand, Hawaii and Dallas. Please can you let me know if you are able to help. Flying in December 2015. Dates are flexible at this stage.

    • Hi Sanchia,

      Thank you for the question. Please email your request to our in-house travel experts: travelbar@travelstart.com

      They will be able to assist you in making this booking.

      – Liam

  10. Is it advisable to book more than one flight at once.example: From JHB TO DBN PE CPT BLOEM AND back to JHB.What do mean by a round trip ticket.Are there any restrictions.Can you stay as long as you want in a particular place.By booking this way does it save you a lot.Which month is cheaper in South Africa, October or September.Generally which day is cheaper.How long can you pre-book.

    THANKS
    LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR REPLY

    • Hi There, thank you for the question.

      On our website you can do up to 3 “legs” using the multi-city menu on our site that would mean you could do JNB- DUR – PE – JNB but not JNB – DUR – PE – Bloem – JNB as that is 4 “legs”. A round trip ticket is often called a “return” ticket, this means it’s a ticket which allows you to go to a destination and return back to where you started. For example: JNB – CPT – JNB, as apposed to a one way ticket: JNB – CPT. You can usually stay up to about 6 months on a domestic ticket (a ticket within SA) and up to about 12 months on an international flight, though some airlines’ cheaper tickets may only allow you to stay up to a few weeks or months. Usually a round trip ticket is cheaper than 2 one way tickets, particularly when booking an international flight. Booking a multistop ticket is also usually cheaper than booking multiple round trip or multiple one way tickets – particularly if one is travelling internationally. For domestic tickets, they’ll be heavily dominated by the school/university holidays so if you can avoid those days and weeks prices should be much the same in both September and October. You’ll find that Tuesdays and Wednesdays and sometimes Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly. You can usually prebook up to about 6 months in advance for domestic tickets, though some airlines may allow you to book longer in advance (up to about 10/11 months) and for international flights you can usually book up to about 10/11 months in advance.

      – Liam

  11. Very valuable info. Kindly keep us up to date.

  12. what is the cheapest fare I can get to hungary for the last week in june?

    • Hi Seyi,

      The cheapest flight that I can find departs on Thursday the 26th of June with British Airways. Cost: R8600. Please visit http://www.travelstart.co.za if you would like to book the flight.

      Alternatively you can contact travelbar@travelstart.com or 0861 878 278 & select option 2

      -Liam

  13. What is the fate approximately from Cape Town SA to Calgary or Toronto Canada?

    • Hi there,

      The price of a one-way ticket from CT to Toronto in September is R12089 with Etihad Airways. Please note that the price will vary according to the time of year. Please visit http://www.travelstart.co.za or contact TravelBar on 0861 878 278 & select option 2 or travelbar@travelstart.com

      – Liam

  14. I have been booking flights and sometimes car hire through Travelstart for years, and have generally found tickets slightly cheaper than booking direct with specific airways.

  15. A friend and I want to take a trip to Turkey in June/July. We would like to spend 3 – 4 days in Istanbul and then go to about 4 other locations where we can spend time lying on the beach, wandering around the town (markets, ruins, scenic walks, etc). The emphasis is on no rush so we can feel like we have had a holiday and smelt the air.

    But…we are clueless…as to how easy and affordable it is to take local transport and stay in simple but clean and acceptable accommodation.

    Is that a more expensive way to go than booking on a tour for some of the time and are we taking a big chance doing the go alone in June?

    Can you perhaps suggest where we ought not to miss (like the balloons) …perhaps the top 5 places we ought to go and the best way to get there. Also do you book local pensions as well as hotels?

    Sorry for al the questions… appreciate any assistance.

    • Hi Wendy,

      Turkey is quite a diverse country in terms of what it offers visitors. The western and southern edges of the country offer a lot for the traveller in search of beach and sunshine, there are literally thousands of kilometres of coastline and many peninsulas and bays to explore. There are also a number of historical sites around places like Izmir, Dalaman and Antalya.

      As for doing it yourself is concerned, you’ll find that away from the tourist areas English is not widely spoken. In some restaurants or roadside stops cooks/waiters may be able to say some of the dishes’ names in English but that will be about it. Booking bus tickets can be done online in Turkey and can be done in English as well, so you should be okay there. Bus transport is also fairly reasonably priced. A one way ticket from Istanbul to Dalaman on the coast will be from around 80 Lira (around R400) though it will take you almost 16 hours, compared to a one hour flight. Driving around Turkey, while definitely possible (the roads are decent) could cost you quite a bit as petrol is around R24.50 per litre!

      What can be said for the organised tours is that so much is paid for before you even begin, such as certain meals, accommodation, transport, a guide and entrance to many sites. The prepaid entrance often means you get to avoid the long queues and can save you several hours of time so that you can wander the sites at a more leisurely pace, spend more time on the beach or use the time to go shopping. The downside is that you will be on an organised schedule which means you can’t always do what you want when you want. I did an organised trip around Turkey and found the guide to be fantastic, he was super knowledgeable and took us off the beaten track a few times to explore small villages, like one where his family owned a house. We also covered huge distances in just 12 days seeing many parts of the country I probably never would have on my own.

      With your trip, I think you need to choose whether you want to see a lot or spend time taking in the culture in one of the regions. If you’re looking at seeing a lot – the tour is for you. If you’re looking at sitting and soaking in the culture and chilling on the beach, then the DIY holiday is for you – you could also take day trips to see some of the sites if you like. Bear in mind that Turkey is huge, it’s not like going to many other European countries as many of the sites are a long way from each other, the terrain is also very mountainous in places making driving slow. For example, Capadocia which is famous for the balloon rides you mentioned is 9 hours car ride away from Istanbul and 13 hours car ride away from the coast resort towns like Fethiye and Marmaris – that’s practically Joburg – Cape Town!

      Another option open to you is the Gulet (sailing boat) trips along the coast. They allow you to see a small patch of coastline but offer lovely views and a restful experience.

      Top 5 amazing sites in Turkey for me: Ephasus (near Izmir), Pamukkale, in the south-western highlands (the famous limestone falls), Capadocia (for baloon trips, the amazing scenery and the underground cities and history), the coastline from Bodrum to Fethiye and then maybe the Lycean way, a long hiking trail along the coastline between Fethiye and Antalya – rich in history.

      We sell mostly hotels, but not local holiday rentals or apartments.

      I hope this info helps you!

      – Nick

  16. Hi Liam,

    Thanks for that information.
    When would be the cheapest time of year to travel to Amsterdam?

    • Hi Mike,

      We suggest you avoid the European summer and festive season.

      -Liam

  17. Very interesting useful information.

    • Thanks Usha! Please let us know if you have any questions for us.

  18. Mike how much info do you have on the cost of Visa’s and time to process them, for destinations like China, or Europe?

    • Hi Barbara,

      For China the price starts at R250 – it will take about 5 working days.

      For Europe – the price will depend on who you apply through. Each European Embassy uses a different handling agency. The cost of the visa itself is 60 euro. For the European visa you will need to contact the embassy of the country in which you will be spending the most time in.

      -Liam

  19. We are a family of 6 wanting to visit relatives in California. Need to fly from Cape Town to Sacremento Airport. Please let me know about cheapest return flights in June/July 2014

    • Hi Amelia,

      Thank you for the question. I had a look at flight prices and they are around R23000 return. Please email our Travelbar team at travelbar@travelstart.com with the dates you would like to travel. They will be able to help you further with seeing if there is anything sub R23000 out there.

      – Liam

  20. Hi Liam
    Myself and my travelling buddy is attending a Church World conference in Los Angeles which is frm the 4 to 9 August 2014,what is ur cheapest flights,as we have accomodation til the
    19 August….We would like to leave btween the 31 July to 2 August.

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for the question. I had a look at flight options for you: the cheapest flight I found was with Emirates – departing JHB on 2nd of August, returning on 11 August – cost: R15 748. If you would like to book or research more options around those dates please http://www.travelstart.co.za or contact our in-house team, travelbar@travelstart.com/ 0861 878 278 & select option 2.

      Please let us know if you have any more questions.

      – Liam

  21. Please may i know how much it will cost to fly from OR Tambo to Seoul around September, October for a month multy trip journey.

    may i also know the price for two adults and one kid, from OR Tambo to kotoka around first week of December2014 or second week of January 2015

    • Hi Banda,

      Thank you for the question.

      OR Tambo to Seoul with Cathay Pacific Airways…depart: 15 oct. return: 15 sept. Price: R9621

      OR to Accra (Ghana) with Arik Airways…depart: 3 Dec. Return: 13 Jan. Price: R5983.

      If you would like to book or research more options around those dates please http://www.travelstart.co.za or contact our in-house team, travelbar@travelstart.com/ 0861 878 278 & select option 2.

      -Liam

  22. It baffles my brain if I look at the various airlines airport taxes they charge. Please explain to me how Emirates can be so cheap and lets say Thai airways charge more for taxes than the flight ticket. I dont believe the difference can be so big

  23. Im looking for the cheapest flights to get to Plett from Durban, not having any luck.
    travel in July.

    • Hi Kerrie, the closest airport to Plett is George. You will either have to fly to George (via JHB), or to PE and then drive to Plett. Please contact our Travelbar team on 0861 878 278 & select option 2 or travelbar@travelstart.com. – Liam

  24. We would like to know what would be the cheapest route from PE (SA) to Innsbruck, Austria, in August, 2014.

    • Hi there, the cheapest flight I could find (departing on 15 Aug and returning on 29th of Aug) costs R16 845. This flight uses a combination of SAA and Lufthansa. If you would like to book this flight please visit http://www.travelstart.co.za or contact our Travelbar team on 0861 878 278 & select option 2 or travelbar@travelstart.com. – Liam

  25. Please give me a price for 2(60+) cape town to beijing to arrive Sep 11 or earlier. Depart Shanghai 20 or later.
    Thanks,
    Len

  26. Hi

    Please find me the cheapest flight to JHB on 2nd July back on 6 July 2014 please

    Regards
    Tembisa

  27. You have a point with that last-minute tickets. Thanks fr sharing your advice and suggestions. You got me on those.

    • Hi Marah,

      Thanks for the great feedback!

      We really try give our readers as much knowledge about Travel as possible!

      Puts a smile on our face when we know our readers appreciate it!

      Have a great day! 😀

      Marcelle

  28. Please could u give me the site for Canada visit visa and requirements.

  29. finding cheap tickets could be a challenge for many traveler especially in holidays season .I think your ideas will help them to enjoy their trips without that feeling of guilt due to expensive tickets .Thanks for the great ideas .

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