Tickets are often one of the biggest items of expenditure for a travel. Therefore, the question “How to buy cheap flight tickets?” is actual for anyone who is planning an independent trip. I want to offer an algorithm that I use myself.
Ticket prices depends on many factors such as the price of oil, the fees set by the airport, the exchange rate, the quality of service on the board. We have to accept some of the factors that determine the price, but we can choose others.
These factors can be divided into several major categories: route, the level of service on board, date of purchase, date and time of departure, ticket fare, the duration of the flight, place to purchase the ticket. We specify all of these factors when we buy a ticket. But sometimes we don’t realize that a change of just one factor may change the price of the ticket up to 7 times.
When searching airfare, clear your cache and cookies first, use VPN or any anonymizers. Airline companies can use your online cache and history when you search and raise prices accordingly.
An important rule: once found a cheap ticket – buy it. Tickets are not getting cheaper, they are only getting more expensive. And it can happen in a matter of hours, even in the process of booking.
First you need to determine the required level of comfort: economy or business class, a willingness to fly at night, a willingness to spend a few hours at some airport in case of a transfer, a willingness to fly without a meal on board, the willingness to get the information about exact departure time not earlier than a day before. All this stuff determines which flights are “OK” for you and which are “Never ever”.
I want to propose an algorithm to find most convenient and cheap airline tickets, which I use myself.
First of all I want to say about two important features of the algorithm:
- There is no a “magical place” where you can set the date and route and get the most convenient and cheapest option anytime.
- The algorithm is iterative. Often you have to do the same steps over and over again, just changing some factors to find the best option. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort, but the savings on the ticket price and travel time worth it.
Also I would like to mention that at each stage you choose between a comfort and a best price. The good news is that sometimes the more convenient and the more cheap options are the same.
“Buy cheap flight tickets” algorithm in a nutshell:
- Select the route.
- Define dates.
- Use search engines to get information about prices range.
- Search discounts on airlines sites.
- Search flights of low-cost airlines.
- Look for charter flights.
- Edit dates.
- Change the route.
- Repeat steps 7 and 8 again and again, compare prices.
- Buy the ticket.
1. Select the route.
First of all you need to determine the route. In most cases, this point seems obvious: “I want to fly from Paris to Beijing. There is nothing to think about!”. But this is not always the same. The route can be challenging, consisting of more than two airports, one-way or round-trip, with or without transfers. All this stuff affects the price.
For example, you are going to skiing in the Alps on the New Year’s holiday. Let’s say to Avoriaz. Departing from Moscow. There is no airport in the Alps. So you have to fly to some European city. It is desirable that Avoriaz is reachable from the airport by bus or by train. There are two airports available: Geneva and Lyon. BUT! The cost of the flight from Moscow to Lyon is 1.5-2 times higher than that a flight from Moscow to Geneva. Taking into account the level of prices in the beginning of January, the difference is significant. And if you compare a departure to Geneva from Moscow, and, for example, from Kiev, you may get even cheaper ticket (taking into account the cost of travel on the train from Moscow to Kiev). This is the way how I chosen a ticket once. Without extra time for the road. It was the night train, and the flight was in the morning.
Therefore, you need to have in mind a list of possible airports of departure and arrival, especially during periods of high prices or in the case of a distant trip.
2. Define dates.
There are two important points here: the time remaining before departure and the date or time of departure.
In the first case, the idea is quite simple: the sooner we buy the ticket, the cheaper it is. Pricing policy is specific for each airline, but the overall trend is the same – the longer you delay, there are fewer opportunities to get cheap fare. However, there is a caveat: perhaps after some time there would be some offers, that are not available at the moment. In this case, excessive haste is not really good. According to my experience, the ticket price does not change, if there is at least 1.5 months before the departure. So buying tickets for the year ahead doesn’t make sense.
In the second case we focus on the season, the day of the week and the time of the departure. There is a “hot season” for each direction, when a lot of people travel at the same time, prices go up, and the number of options decreases every minute. You need to know these seasons for the selected direction. For the United States it is Christmas, for Russia – New Year’s holiday, for China – Chinese New Year and October holidays, for South East Asia – the period after the rainy season. In case of the day of the week, the fare on Friday and on weekends are usually higher than on other days. Same with the time of departure, the most convenient time is usually the most expensive.
3. Use search engines to get information about prices range.
There are great variety of search engines, each with a set of specific features, a list of airlines and agencies it works with, and a specific quality of the results for each region. Search Engines do not sell tickets, they provide you available options from agents (booking sites), including airlines sites, where you can buy these tickets for mentioned price. It’s important that search engines give you a fairly accurate idea of how much it would cost to get a ticket for particular direction in specific dates.
I prefer Skyscanner, simply because it often gives the most accurate results. In fairness, I’m going to note a few popular search engines. Momondo and Kayak allow you to search for multiple destinations, Aviasales and Skyscanner allow you to subscribe and get information about prices via e-mail to catch the best ticket, Buruki allows you to see airlines offers.
IMPORTANT! No one search engine has all the information about tickets, because the number of airlines and agencies the search engine works with is limited. It is better to use several of them and compare results.
4. Search discounts on airlines sites.
You can find a list of airlines that fly to the particular airport on airport site, on search engines sites or sites like Flight connections. Take the time to visit the sites of these airlines to get a list of available offers. Information about such discounts are not always visible on search engines. If you frequently fly this direction, you can subscribe to get information about offers by e-mail.
5. Search flights of low-cost airlines.
Low Cost airlines offer tickets at budget prices, but with a smaller set of services provided. They can reduce prices for tickets due to the fact that airplanes take off almost immediately after landing, which reduces costs for airport services, the main (and more expensive) airports are not used, flights are short, there are no free meals on board, more seats in airplanes, extra fees for luggage etc. In general, it is the same flights, but with a little less comfort. Modern search engines show Low Cost airlines flights, but you can insure and look at the company’s official websites. List of low cost airlines can be found on Wikipedia or on search engine sites like Low Cost Airline Guide.
6. Look for charter flights.
If you fly to a popular destination, you can try to buy a ticket on a charter flight (flight, running for a particular tour operator, originally sold as a part of a tour set, tickets are sold by a tour operator). I don’t like charter flights because the time of departure usually is inconvenient and it may be changed suddenly, planes are small and uncomfortable, poor quality of service, and you can’t buy a ticket in advance. But in some cases it works fine. You can use a search engine like Aviacharter.ru or Chabooka to find a ticket. Also there is a variety of groups in social networks that offer charter flights.
7. Edit dates.
Change the date of departure and check price changes. It will provide a more or less complete picture of prices for the selected route.
8. Change the route.
If possible, change the airport of departure/arrival or split the original flight into several independent flights. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy individual tickets for the two sections of the track than a ticket from the start to the end point of departure.
For example, the required route Shanghai – Cebu can be found as Shanghai-Cebu (transfer flight with 1 stop) or as Shanghai-Manila + Manila-Cebu. In this case the cost of two separate direct tickets Shanghai-Manila + Manila-Cebu is 1.5 times lower than the cheapest option Shanghai-Cebu (transfer with 1 stop). At the same time flight time is less and more convenient, which gives more time for a rest during a vacation.
You can choose an airline for each piece when you split the route into several pieces. But it’s better to remember an undeniable disadvantage of this option: if you miss the second flight due to the delay of the first flight, nobody would return the money or provide you with another flight as in the case of a transit ticket. Also you need to check in your luggage for each flight.
9. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you find the most appropriate ticket.
10. Buy the ticket.
You can buy tickets on the airline sites or on booking sites. The search engine will provide you with a list of all known sites and prices. But it’s possible to get additional agent fees that are not included in the initial cost or exchange rates that are not taken into account. So sometimes it is possible that the price charged from the credit card is not equal the price that is shown by a search engine. Also conditions of tickets return or replacement may vary. Some agents can be even frank scammers. You need to be careful and check everything before the payment. I prefer to buy tickets on airline sites. Sometimes, the price may be higher. But if the difference is not significant, it is better to overpay for the warranty.
ReminderWhen searching airfare, clear your cache and cookies first, use VPN or any anonymizers. Airline companies can use your online cache and history when you search and raise prices accordingly.
That’s it. Good luck with your tickets!