Travelling well for less: How to save money on flight tickets
Zawya spoke to experts and frequent travellers to find out how to spend less on tickets. Here's what they told us.
Image used for illustrative purpose. Close-up of a person's hand holding a passport with an airplane ticket.
By Ajanta Paul, ZAWYA
Deciding on a travel destination is easy. The hard part is finding an inexpensive air ticket. Air fare takes up a huge share of the total holiday spend, so Zawya spoke to experts and frequent travellers to find out how to spend less on tickets. Here’s what they told us.
DO NOT BOOK TICKETS ON WEEKENDS
Wego, an online travel marketplace in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), revealed that the cheapest days for travellers to save money while booking their flights are Mondays and Wednesdays.
Dean Wicks, Chief Flights Officer at Wego, said, “If users book between 11 pm and 2 am, they could save up to $300, depending on the destination. There is no clear day for every destination due to seasonality. However, the big trend we see is that Mondays and Wednesdays are the best days to book.”
BOOK IN ADVANCE
Shoot for that month-and-a-half mark to book tickets. The prices start falling around two to three months before the date of departure, as airlines introduce flash sales and discounts to fill the remaining seats and clear their inventory. The closer you get to your travel dates, higher the price.
Travel writer Anjaly Thomas has another trick up her sleeve: “If you can take a chance to wait until the very last minute, [and] if the flight is not full, they may drop the prices at the very last minute. It is a huge risk to take, though.”
ASK FOR DISCOUNTS
Some international airlines offer a special child fare but do not advertise this discount online. It is always advisable to call them directly and ask for these rebates. For example, Emirates’ special rate is 25 percent of the adult base fare for children aged 2–11 years who travel in a separate seat.
WeGo compares a range of flight and accommodation options available in the marketplace. Wicks says, “Metasearch sites aggregate data from online travel agencies and airlines and provide travellers with the best comparison rates. They are a one-stop shop.”
FLY ODD HOURS
“Red eye flights cost far less, especially for short haul,” Anjaly told us.
Most red eye flights leave late at night after around 9pm and arrive early in the morning around 5am or 6 am. For people who have no problem sleeping during a flight, this can be a good, cheap option, and you save on the accommodation for the night you’re in the air too. Business travellers often opt for red-eye flights to avoid losing a working day in transit.
TRAVEL ON WEEKDAYS
Wego has recently released a study showing that a great percentage of holidaymakers travel on weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are in high demand globally, and flights on those days are more expensive. For a leisure traveller looking for cheap air tickets, midweek travelling is cheapest.
FLY DURING OFF-PEAK MONTHS
Travelling out of season will mean both cheaper flights and less busy destinations. Prices jump considerably during the school holidays. And it’s not just the summer holidays you need to watch out for. You should avoid Easter, Eid, Christmas and the half-term break, which are likely to be more expensive.
Use “my dates are flexible” options in your searches on airline websites to check out the best prices. Dean Wick has a golden rule: “A tip for families is to book a direct flight and avoid peak periods and expensive days. Instead of booking on the weekend of the school break, try booking on Mondays.”
FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM
Frequent flyer is a loyalty program wherein every time you travel a particular airline, points are added to your account that can be redeemed for discounts. They cost nothing to join, and there are lots of UAE banks offering credit cards that give airline loyalty points. Some of them also offer free travel insurance as a bonus.
Short stopover flights are usually cheaper than direct ones. You can also benefit from long stopover flights if you would want to see more than one country at once; you can spend a night in the stopover country and resume your flight the next day. This saves you a lot of money as you won’t need to book two separate flights.
The UAE issues two types of transit visas: one for 48 hours, which is free of charge, and another for 96 hours for AED 50. Transit visas are sponsored only by UAE-based airlines and must be processed and approved before entering the UAE.
Pack smart and beat the baggage fees. Weigh your luggage before you leave home and avoid unexpected excess baggage charges.
To get a cheap air ticket, fly with a low-cost carrier.
Booking round-trip tickets will always save you money.
When you are absolutely sure of your travel dates, book non-refundable tickets; these are always cheaper than refundable tickets.
Airplane food is expensive and often stale. Pack your snacks from home for a fraction of the cost. Food is permitted on board as long as it’s not liquid.
Skip in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi. You can download a bunch of different things to read or listen to. If you have the Netflix app, you can stream pre-downloaded TV and movies for free.
(Reporting by Ajanta Paul, editing by Seban Scaria)
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