Many airlines have cheap flight deals and slashed prices; the tricky part is finding them. Once you’ve got the knack, you can end up saving a significant amount on flight fares. With some flexibility, and a little extra time spent searching the web, you’ll soon be snagging the best deals around.
Be flexible with your travel dates and times
Naturally, airlines hike their prices up at popular times of the year for travel - be it summer or winter holidays, school breaks or festivals - the more people wanting to fly at a particular time of year, the higher the prices will be. So, if you really want to fly cheaper, go against the flow. Visit Paris in spring, rather than summer; fly on a weekday rather than the weekend; travel early or late, rather than the middle of the day. For a little added inconvenience, being flexible and adaptable with when you go away can save you (literally) hundreds of pounds.
TOP TIP: When searching for flight prices, choose the “whole month” view, and you will be able to pick the days of the month that have the cheapest prices.
For last-minute deals, check out charter airlines
Most airlines will ramp up their prices as the departure date looms nearer, in efforts to squeeze some extra pennies out of travellers who didn’t organise themselves in time. But there are exceptions to this rule. Chartered airlines - such as the UK's Thomas Cook and Tui - work the opposite way. As their business is centred around package-holiday deals, any surplus seats will be sold last-minute at very reduced fares. For this to work for you, of course, you’ll need to be laidback with the exact location (with the assurance it will be tropical), and ready for a spontaneous two-week trip where you can score some significant savings.
Choose cheaper airlines
You don’t get as many (sometimes any) perks, but you sure save some money by choosing a budget airline. In Europe and Asia in particular, there are countless cheap airlines, offering numerous flights for under £100. The main thing to be aware of when flying with a budget company is their rules. The way they make their money is through extra fees - for baggage, not checking in, not printing a boarding pass etc. If you do end up getting charged these fees, the cost can amass to the same as if you’d travelled with a larger carrier - calculate this before booking.
Get flights with layovers and connections
If you really want to fly cheap, you’ll have to release expectations of a direct flight that gets you to your destination in one easy trip. Often the cheapest flights are on budget airlines that will stop off somewhere first, before a connecting flight to the final destination. I have personally utilised this a lot whilst travelling, which has meant longer flying durations but much cheaper overall flight costs.
TOP TIP: Sites such as Momondo and Skyscanner will often offer these cheap connection flight prices, which saves trying to work it out yourself.
Compare prices on a few different search engines
Not every search engine site will cover every destination or every flight option. To ensure you snag the best possible deal, make sure you do some flight comparisons on a couple of different sites before booking. The international sites are generally the better ones, as they include budget airlines and a great range of the obscurer destinations. Some of the best airline search engines to use are Momondo, Skyscanner and Google Flights.
Stay alert for flash sales
The main thing when it comes to snapping up cheap flights is timing. Timing is everything. Prices fluctuate heavily and often on almost all routes and airlines. Sudden reductions in prices are usually because airlines have not sold as many tickets as they predicted. Prices will plummet (sometimes as much as 60%) for a few days until demand picks up again for the flight. The way to make the most of this is to track flight sales for your chosen destination, using tools such as Google Flights, and then book as soon as there is a price drop.
Look for tickets in other currencies
If your country’s currency is strong compared to others, search for the flight in a place where the currency is weaker. For instance, searching on a New Zealand flight website as opposed to a UK one, where the rate of the $ to the £ is roughly half. Often (but not always), the site with cheaper currency versions will be much less than the stronger currency one.
Sign up for frequent flyer packages and win free air miles
If you’re a frequent flyer, it’s a smart idea to sign up for an airline rewards program. These offer the chance of winning free flights, free upgrades and free companion tickets. If you use the same airline each time you go away, you can earn air miles every time you fly. This then means once you’ve collected flight points, you can travel around the world for virtually nothing. The main other methods of snagging free air travel are: get a travel rewards credit card, use airline shopping portals and watch out for airline special offers.