Everyone books flights online these days, but not everyone gets the best deals. Human travel agents may have gone the way of pagers, PDAs and the dinosaurs, but not everyone is as good at buying air tickets online as they think.
Just because you know how to use Zuji’s search function and have a credit card you can use to pay online doesn’t mean you should be congratulating yourself on getting a great deal each time. Here are a few mistakes you might be making that are inflating the prices of your air tickets.
You’re not checking enough sites
Every website claims to help you book the cheapest flights. But to be honest, I’ve been booking flights online for a long time and can vouch for the fact that there is never one site that ALWAYS gets the cheapest flights.
In general, sites can be divided into 3rd party search sites like Kayak and Skyscanner that don’t allow you to book tickets through them but will let you book through other sites, and online travel agents like Zuji that will let you book flights directly.
The former are useful to get a general overview of which airlines are offering good deals, but often their listings aren’t that accurate. You’ll have to look through the latter, the online travel agencies, in detail to find out which flight is actually the cheapest.
Some sites add a small commission on top of the ticket price, while others don’t keep their flight searches as up to date as others. So it’s important to check the same flight on multiple sites. In addition, sites like Expedia and Zuji that enable you to book directly through them often have exclusive sales, which can make their prices lower than the competition’s. I’ve gotten tickets to Hawaii for $1,200 that were available at that price only on Zuji.
Here are a couple of sites to check:
You’re not checking directly on the airlines’ websites
Sometimes, but not always, you can find even cheaper prices on the airlines’ websites than the prices listed on search sites or online travel agencies. It’s important to note that this is not always the case, as oftentimes the latter will have their own sales or offer a lower price than you would get through booking with the airline. For instance, two years ago I flew to Fukuoka on JAL for about $600 on Zuji. When I checked directly with JAL, the same ticket cost more than double the price.
On the other hand, last year I flew to Rome on SriLankan Airlines. I first compared prices on Kayak and found SriLankan Airlines to have the lowest prices via Expedia at around $980. However, when I checked the SriLankan Airlines website, I found that they were selling tickets at an even lower price at $960.
You’re not playing with dates
Sometimes, just flying one or two days earlier or later can save you a ton of money. So don’t forget to play around with different combinations of dates if you want to get a cheaper ticket. Select “multiple dates” or “flexible dates” before you click the search button and most websites will churn out a combination of dates.
In general, you pay more when you fly on weekends than Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. But it’s not always possible to predict when it’s the cheapest to fly. Sometimes one or two weeks in a month will be more expensive than others for inexplicable reasons.
You’re ignoring additional costs
Don’t take the sticker price of air tickets at face value. By the time you get to checkout and it’s time to key in your credit card details, you might have noticed a few costs having been snuck in. Here are some of the additional costs websites might sneak in.
- Taxes: Airline taxes can be up to $150, and not all airlines or search engines include them in the quoted price
- Checked in baggage: If you’re flying on a budget airline, you are unlikely to have a baggage allowance even on long flights of over five hours. You might be charged up to $60 to check in your bags.
- Long layovers: Deeply discounted tickets often come with long layovers. This may or may not be a bad thing depending on how much time you have, but will cause you to incur additional costs as you’ll have to feed yourself while you’re at the airport. If you have a layover of more than half a day, contact the airline to ask if you’ll be provided with accommodation.
- Inconvenient airports: Always check which airport you’ll be flying into. A cheaper air ticket will sometimes get you stranded at a less accessible airport, which might then result in your spending a lot of time and money trying to get to your destination.
- Awkward arrival time: Cheaper tickets often involve awkward arrival times. If your flight lands at 3am, you’re going to have to spend good money on a taxi in the middle of the night and perhaps lose half the day sleeping.
- Travel insurance: Unless you want to take a huge risk, you’ll have to factor in the cost of travel insurance as well. Use MoneySmart’s Travel Insurance Wizard to get the best price.
How do you lower the cost of flights you book online? Tell us in the comments!