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Expert advice on how to book cheaper flights

Posted  June 28, 2017

Whether you’re flying local for business, or planning that dream overseas holiday, you can save a bundle on airfares if you know the insider tips. Do your homework, spend some time on research, and you can get a lot more bang for your travel buck. Here are some ways to save on your flight costs.

Book as early as possible Airlines generally release their cheapest tickets first, so you can get better ticket prices if you book well in advance. However, this isn’t always the case - if a particular flight is not selling well, the airline might consider dropping their price on that flight as the departure date gets closer.

Be flexible with your dates The more in-demand a flight is, the more expensive. For domestic flights, avoid booking on Fridays, Sunday evenings, the day before a public holiday, and at the start or the end of school holidays. Saturday afternoon travel is also generally cheaper. International flights leaving South Africa between Sunday and Thursdays and returning between a Tuesday and Thursday are often cheaper.

Go when no one else wants to! Friday the 13th often offers cheaper flights. Unless you are a triskaidekaphobian…in which case, not even YOU would want the cheaper rate!

Avoid booking on Fridays, Sunday evenings, or the day before a public holiday.

Avoid special days Be aware of local events which might drive up demand. For instance, flights to Durban are generally more expensive just before the Comrades or the Durban July.

Go when flights are less popularAugust is generally a cheap month in which to book local South African flights.

Check the time Locally, early morning and late evening flights are usually booked by business people, and so they tend to be full - and expensive. A mid-morning or early afternoon flight might be a cheaper option.

Sign upSign up for email alerts on travel and booking websites, so you know when there are specials.

Enter a competitionEnter an airline competition or try to get in on the “R1.00 specials” that are popular promos.

Try a different airportIf your city offers a choice of airports, you might find that one is cheaper. In Johannesburg, Lanseria has a limited number of flights and destinations, but you often find less expensive flights from that airport than from OR Tambo.

Check out budget carriersJust make sure that you factor in luggage. Low cost carriers like Safair, locally, and Ryanair and others internationally, often quote their low fares based on hand luggage only, and charge for additional bags. Add a suitcase (or two) and you might find the price is comparable with a regular carrier.

Price outbound and return flights separately if you fly local For local flights, get prices on your outbound and return leg separately, on different carriers, rather than just booking a round trip.

Stick with one carrier on international flightsFor international flights, it is more cost effective to book the return trip with the same carrier. Also, trying to co-ordinate connecting flights from different carriers can be difficult, and lead to missed flights and lost or misplaced luggage – which means more expenses.

Clear your cookiesThere is a theory that airline and booking sites use cookies to track which destinations you search often, and because you’re obviously keen, show you slightly higher rates. Clearing your cookies means clearing the record of your history on the site to avoid the possibility of loaded prices.

Play your (loyalty) cards rightGet yourself a credit card from a company that will offer you air miles. Kulula (Kulula moolah) or Discovery Card (Fast Miles) are just two of those. Many of the banks cards offer you similar loyalty incentives. The Nedbank American Express card offers a Greenbacks program and the Diners Club card links to SAA/BA.

Investigate a frequent flier programmeIf it doesn’t cost you an admin fee, it might be worth it to sign up for your preferred airline’s loyalty programme.

As a travel writer, I am often asked when the best time to travel is. My answer: whenever you heart desires and your wallet can afford it. By making use of these money-saving tips, that time might come sooner than you think.

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