Check Fares Early. For international flights, the difference between the best and worst fare is about Rs. 14, 000 per seat (Source: CheapAir. Com).
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So, if you are a family of four, that’s a saving of about fifty-six grand! The fares change multiple times – most airlines typically have between 8 and 10 price points for a flight! Airlines manage their fares using sophisticated booking systems (yield management is a term that is usually associated with this). It works like this – airlines have seats in ‘buckets’ or groups of fares e.g. first 10 seats for Rs. 1000, next 20 for Rs. 1500 and so on for a ‘normal’ booking day. The highest prices are for people who don’t bother about the cost e.g. businessmen, corporates, emergency cases etc. Whereas lowest prices are for people who are price conscious and will fly only if they get a good deal. So, if the booking for that particular day is strong, the system might decide to hike the prices on each of the buckets. If it is lower than anticipated, the prices may drop. Airlines do not like to fly empty seats. So, while it is a good idea to start checking fares 12 to 15 weeks in advance, it is best not to buy before 3 V2 months since airline systems don’t begin to actively manage or control the prices.
Check Fares Often. One you begin to monitor the airfares, do so as often as possible and snipe in when it is at the lowest acceptable which will be sometime around week 7 to 10. But, don’t keep procrastinating since the fares are bound to increase as the travel date is near. The high fares are in the last 14 days and most times the worst day is the last day before the flight! Sign up for price alerts on various websites. You may also like to download apps on your smart phone for this.
Compare Extensively. Search and compare on Booking Engines / Portals as well as airline websites. Sometimes, while booking the tickets unexpectedly drop their fares on their websites. This happened with me twice – once while booking for Singapore and the second for Turkey -the fare drop in comparison with booking portals was about 10%!
Mistake Fares. This is an exciting one. Sometimes, due to system glitch / error, one gets rock-bottom fares simply because some data entry operator didn’t enter the numbers or decimals properly. So a $500 fare can be got for as little as $ 5.00! Now that is an error we all love. To be on top of this, just register for fare alerts on sites like Hipmunk, SkyScanner.co. In and be active on social media related to travel. You should also be on the FlyerTalk site’s airfare forum. When you see the mistake fare, just book it immediately before the airlines finds and plugs in the error – irrespective whether they take down the site in a few minutes or hours. Most of the time, they will honour the mistake fares, unless the number of people who have gotten these fares is so enormous that it will be operationally unviable for the airline to fly. Needless to say, don’t ever flip these tickets (buy low and sell high on eBay or such places), else you are liable to banned by the concerned airlines or worse the alliance.
Low Cost Carriers (LCC). Comparison engines / sites will usually not list LCCs like AirAsia, EasyJet, RyanAir etc. So head over to their respective websites, search and compare with other deals. Beware of extra fees on things like baggage, seat choice etc. If it increases your fare too much, you are better off flying the full-fare airline. In any case LCCs usually don’t operate long-haul flights, except for AirAsia which offers excellent deals from India to as far as Japan and Australia.
Mix & Match. Usually flying one airline roundtrip or multi-city trip is a cheaper option. But you may get a good deal if you fly a combination of different airlines – this is especially true if you combine it with a Low Cost Carrier (LCC). We have done this on several short haul (less than 1 hour) flights in Europe (EasyJet / RyanAir) where you can fly from say Athens to Rome on a deal of 19 Euros!
Break Groups / Families. What! But is it not true that bigger the group, better the discount? Yes, sometimes, but not always. Let me explain. See the point above for how airlines manage fares in ‘buckets’? So you must search for 2 or 3 members of your family and then the group. If the prices for both are same (or difference is negligible), then go ahead and make the group booking. But if 2 – 3 members fall into the lower price bucket (say Rs. 1000), the other four in the slightly higher (say, Rs. 1500), then you have just saved Rs. 1000 for 2 members of your group / family!
Slight Destination Change. Flying into bigger, busier airports is more expensive than flying into smaller ones. This is because of all the taxes and levies at the airport. Moreover, there are other costs associated with such popular airports e.g. costly airport transfers, time standing at passport control, for taxis, traffic to/from the airport. So, for example you may like to check for fares to Brussels, Belgium from where you can hop on a short-haul flight to London or take a 2 hour train ride to Paris. And see Brussels too! There are low cost flights from Dublin (Ireland) to the US and Canada.
Early Flight Times. Yes, wake up early and catch that morning flight which most corporates and business people do not prefer. Between 10 and 1 pm is usually the high fares time.
Frequent Flyer Programs. Register for airline frequent flyer programs to get good deals.