Get More From Flight Comparison Sites
Since the advent of the Internet it seems like it’s never been easier to book flights for your holiday. Log in to your computer and within a few clicks you can be comparing prices on flights across Europe, a far cry from the days of trudging through the High Street to your local travel agent. However, can there be such a thing as too much choice? A simple Internet search for “Cheap Flights” and I’m faced with over 70.5 million results! Luckily, there are tools out there to help.
Booking your flight online is a great way to save money, especially thanks to price comparison websites which scour the internet for the best deals. These sites claim to do all the legwork whilst you plan out what you’re going to see and do once you arrive at your destination. This can be a handy way of saving time and money but does it always offer the best price?
On the whole, comparison sites will do a good job of finding the best deals, although there are even more ways to find cheap flights. From booking on particular days of the week to making a stop-over you will be surprised how much can be saved. In some cases however, the cheapest deals don’t always offer the best value.
In this article we provide some top tips for getting the most out of flight comparison websites.
Why Do Prices Fluctuate?
Carry out a quick search on any flight comparison website and you’ll be faced with a wealth of airlines all vying for your attention. To stay competitive each of these airlines reduce and increase their prices multiple times a day. In practice, if one airline lowers their price, its competitors will feel the pressure to act likewise ensuring a highly competitive market resulting in cheaper flights for consumers.
There are other factors which can affect the price of flights from changes in oil price altering how much it costs the airline to fuel the aeroplane to seasonal demand for particular destinations.
Book Your Flights Early
Timeshare owners of fixed weeks are granted greater freedom when it comes to booking flights. As you’ll know well in advance when your holiday commences you have a much greater time-frame to book your flights. In comparison, owners of Floating weeks are best advised to reserve their holiday as early as possible, that way they can increase their flexibility for booking flights.
As a general rule of thumb holidaymakers should book at least 2 months in advance for intra-Europe flights whilst longer-haul destinations, such as the U.S.A, should be booked around 18 weeks prior to departure.
Holiday companies such as Thomson and Thomas Cook will release their flights around 12 months prior to departure allowing their customers the greatest window to book their travel. Airlines with regular scheduled routes such as: British Airways and Emirates usually release their flights up to 11 months in advance of the departure date. Towards the low-cost end of the scale easyJet and Ryanair tend to publish their flights around 7-8 months prior to departure as they regularly update their routes and landing times.
Set up a Price Alert
A popular feature amongst many of the top flight comparison websites are price/fare alerts. Simply type in the details of a flight you would like to track and you will be alerted by email if a fare changes or falls below your chosen price limit. This is one of the best ways to stay in the know about the price of your flight. Below we have an example of how simple it is to set up price alerts with Skyscanner, all you have to do is type in your email address and they do the rest for you, easy!
Book On Certain Days
It may sound strange but searching for flights on different days of the week can return different prices. Expedia and the ARC (Airlines Reporting Commission) suggest the best days of the week to search/book flights are generally on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). This is simply when most leisure travellers are searching for tickets and so competing airlines advertise their lowest fares on these days to attract these travellers.
Be Flexible / Fly Off-Peak
The lowest airfares are sometimes reserved for very early morning or late night departures. By flying at off-peak times travellers are sometimes able to save extra money by booking onto the less desirable flight times. So, if you’re an early riser or one of the lucky ones who can sleep on a plane then this tip is for you!
Book With Multiple Airlines
Those readers familiar with flight comparison sites should be well aware they offer return flights from multiple providers. This is a great money saving technique allowing holidaymakers to book their departing flight with one provider whilst selecting a return flight with a different airline. To put this into perspective, you’re essentially purchasing two single flights with different airlines. Often, arilines have special offers on single flights, what you may find however is the return leg 7-nights later is not so special! Therefore, you’re sometimes able to book a bargain on both legs of your journey but it’s always worth checking first.
We put this into action via Skyscanner and searched for flights between London Gatwick and Faro on the Algarve during 13th – 20th May 2017. From 240 results the best deal was with multiple airlines, departing with Norwegian Airlines on 13/5/2017 and returning with Monarch on 20/5/2017. This deal combined the cheaper offerings on both routes to create these stand-out flights.
Make A Stopover
Adding a stop-over to your flight can be a great way to save money. If you prefer to save money over time then this is a suitable option for you. In most cases these fares are chartered by lesser known airlines whom stop-off at additional airports to collect more passengers. This inevitably adds more time to your journey but in return travellers are able to save on total cost. Furthermore, depending on the length and location of the stop-over, you’ll get to see even more of the world inclusive of the cost of your flight.
Shop around for the best deals
It’s a great time to be flying abroad! The cost of flying actually fell in 2015 according to a report by Expedia and the ARC (Airlines Reporting Corporation). Flights between European countries were on average 17% cheaper compared to 2014 with prices also falling by 5% in North America over the same period.
It may be surprising however, but prices differ across flight comparison websites. In many cases, these sites will collect prices from airline websites in order to populate their own listings, however, these fares are not always the most accurate.
For example, Ryanair have only recently began sharing data with relative newcomers to the flight comparison game Google Flights. Therefore, any comparison site showing prices from Ryanair, other than Google Flights, may not be entirely accurate. So it is always worth checking prices against those shown on the airlines own website.
Clear Your Browser’s History
A recent report from Expedia and ARC (Airlines Reporting Commission) suggests we search around 48 times across 8 different sites before booking a flight. This may seem excessive but who doesn’t love a bargain?
Your savvy shopping efforts may be in vain however, unless you delete your browser’s cookies. Comparison sites use what’s called a cookie (unfortunately not the biscuit) to follow and record your activity on their website. This helps them to tailor your experience during your next visit by only displaying your specific travel preferences from information gathered by the cookie. In some cases however, the cheapest price will not be shown if you return to the website on the same browser, simply because the cookie stores the preferences and results from your previous visits.
The advice therefore, is to delete your bookmarks or cookies for those price comparison websites to ensure you’re always offered the best deals.
Keep In Touch
Staying in touch with airlines is another great tip for booking cheap flights. Signing up for newsletters with popular airlines allows you to stay up-to-date with the latest deals and promotions for your favourite destinations. Airlines and tour operators offer some subscribers discounts to encourage them to fly with the same airline again.
Some airlines have also been known to advertise deals exclusively on Social Media, so get following on Twitter, Facebook and the like!
Cheapest Flight Not Always Best Value
Always do your research. In many cases the lowest prices don’t always provide the best value. What you may find is the lowest price will simply offer you a flight only option, so it’s always worth checking what extras are included in the price. For example: are your baggage fees built in, is in-flight food included, do the arrival times match with your transport links? In any case, it is always worth checking the finer details of a flight before you proceed with your booking.
On the whole we usually reccommend Skyscanner to our customers for booking flights for their timeshare holidays as this is usually where you’ll find the best deals.