Airlines use yield management algorithms to price their seats. The price is constantly in flux and depends on when and what price other passengers are buying tickets for the same flights – among other more predictable factors such as festivals or holidays. The idea is not only to ensure that as many seats as possible are filled, but that the airline is able to meet the actual costs of the flight.
So, here are some tips on getting the best price possible for your flights!
One – Eliminate any obvious high-price times/days. Look into the local calendar of events for your destination and timeframe. Are there any big, disruptive conferences? holidays? festivals? You can guess that flying in on a Friday and out on a Sunday is probably what everybody else wants to be doing also. Avoid the rush times when possible. While many theories exist around booking specifically on a Tuesday to save money, the reality is there is no consistent truth to exactly which days are cheapest to fly. Most of the time it is cheaper to leave on a weekday, though this isn’t always the case. Your best strategy is to get a quick visual of prices for a whole month to see what days are cheapest for your specific route. Here’s how:
- Hop on SkyScanner
- Enter your departure & arrival cities
- Select “one-way” (even if flying round trip – you’re just determining the cheapest days to fly out first
- Click “Depart” but instead of entering a date, select “Whole Month” so you can see which date is cheapest.
Two – Clear your browser’s cookies before searching for flights online or use incognito mode. Many airlines and booking sites such as Expedia and Kayak track how many times you’ve visited their websites, and modify the price based on your visits. Remember to clear it each time you search!
Three – Search for flights with Hipmunk or Skyscanner and setup up email notifications which will keep you posted on your flight’s price. Hipmunk also sorts results by “Agony,” if you like. The combination of price, flight duration, and number of stopovers – if that is something you would want to consider.
Four – Book long-haul flights yourself for less. If you’re flying somewhere that involves a transfer, say from Dublin to Australia which may involve Dublin to Singapore, then Singapore to Australia, consider that it may be cheaper to book these two legs separately on your own by adding another destination to your trip. It should go without saying that in doing this, you should not book tight layovers. I repeat: do not book layovers that are hours apart! This approach is for those who want to create an additional destination of a few days or more, before catching their next flight.
Five – If you know when and where you’re going, don’t wait to book. Rarely ever do airline tickets get cheaper as your departure date approaches, especially if you need to fly on a certain date. Budget airlines typically offer low rates as a baseline price, and as these tickets sell, the remaining ones increase in cost. If you know when and where you’re going, don’t wait on an unknown sale. More often than not, your biggest savings come from booking far ahead when you can.
Six – Travellers long ago discovered a trick known now as “hidden city” flights. In a nutshell, sometimes a flight that connects in a city you want to go to is cheaper than flying directly to it. So instead, you book that cheap flight which connects in your desired city and hop off there, not taking the connection. It should go without saying this is risky for many reasons. If the flight you’re on happens to be the same one continuing to the final destination, you could possibly not be allowed to disembark the plane as one reader described to me their own experience. If your plane ticket only has the final destination printed on it, you may also run into troubles. Additionally, if some airlines detect you’ve not taken your connection, you may not be allowed to fly with them in the future. There is now a web search engine which finds hidden city tickets for you. It’s called Skiplagged and is currently being sued by various airlines who are angry about this. Use at your own risk!
So, to summarise;
Use the right search engine for booking flights.
Always search incognito for consistent pricing.
Consider booking multiple legs of a long-haul flight individual to slash costs.
Don’t wait on seat sales – your savings are generally bigger the further ahead you book.
And, most importantly, enjoy your trip!