- Finding Cheap Flights - Introduction
- Finding Cheap Flights - When Time Matters
- Finding Cheap Flights - When Place Matters
- Finding Cheap Flights - Search Tools
Whatever people are willing to pay for, Airlines try to extract as much revenue from that as possible. One way to do it is to account for variable demand by place of booking, departure and arrival. Let’s see how you can reduce your airfare by optimizing all three:
Place of Booking
The price of a ticket can be substantially affected by where you buy your ticket. The same ticket on the same flights can vary by as much as $200 depending on where the travel agency is ticketing. Surprisingly, OTAs in less developed countries tend to charge higher prices, presumably because air travel is restricted to the wealthy. One way I usually check for that is to search on Kayak.com, but then quickly replace the search URL with different domains such as .de, .it, .fr to see whether there is a substantial difference. I usually see at least $10-$20 difference. This however only works if you have a debit/credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.
Place of Departure/Arrival
Some airports are cheaper to depart of than others. I live in New York, which generally has the lowest international tickets in the region. So when I was living in Boston, more than once I would take the bus down to New York to take advantage of that price difference. Note that you will have to consider the added cost in terms of time and transportation/accommodation cost when you don’t have/don’t want to crash with a friend. I also did this when departing from Berlin, which rarely has cheap flights (due to higher airport taxes in Germany and other reasons). If you feel like visiting other places, you can take a bus/train or even flight to cheaper departure spots like Warsaw or Milan. I consider it two killing two flies with one stone: you get to fly cheaper while seeing another city.
Thus, you can save substantial amounts by picking a different destination nearby. Many regions have an extensive network of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs like Ryanair, Air Asia, etc.) that make it very convenient to hop from one place to another. Some countries have much higher airport taxes than others (Germany and GB e.g.), so avoid those if you can and maybe take a bus/train there.
Open Jaw Routings
Open Jaws are routes where its not A - B / B - A, but A - B / B - C or A - B / C - A. Fare rules for these types of routings are sometimes very lenient and result in lower prices, as well as the added benefit of seeing another place.
Hidden city ticketing
Sometimes, something very obscure can happen. Sometimes a flight with a layover in Airport A to reach Airport B can be cheaper than a direct flight to Airport A. Remember that airfare pricing has nothing to do with the actual cost to the airline, but everything with the willingness of the travelers to pay a certain price. Hidden city ticketing is the process of booking a ticket to Airport B via Airport A with the intention of never taking the flight from A to B. Caveat: You can not check a bag, since it will obviously make its way to Airport B, thus you should manically avoid being the last guy to board, because of the possibly to get your baggage gate-checked. Hidden city ticketing is against the terms and conditions of most carriers, thus you would have hard time explaining why you would need your baggage at the layover. Also note that with the miss of any flight, your following flights will automatically get cancelled as well, so this only works if you want to do this on the return leg or on a one-way ticket.
Special Sales Events
Certain routes are often times put in deal mode for various reasons. For example, the LCC Norwegian Air Shuttle is offering very competitive trans-atlantic flights, especially between Scandinavia and New York. As a result, legacy carriers across the board have made routes from Oslo, Copenhagen and others to the US very cheap. Cheap enough for me to take a flight to Oslo to take to the US instead of flying directly to the US. Last year, Emirates introduced their NYC-Milan route, causing the route to go cheap across many carriers.
By breaking up your itinerary onto multiple tickets, you lose your protection in case you are going to miss a flight because of a delay of a prior flight. The way I mitigate that is to stay at least a night between separate tickets, you’d probably wanna do it anyways if you want to actually see the city.