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Whilst we have all heard of people obtaining a last minute bargain deal the general rule with airline tickets is the earlier you book the larger the saving. This is almost always the case with the low cost discount airlines where there may only be a handful of seats available on each flight at the advertised bargain fares. As a general rule, at the very latest it is normally best to book short haul flights a minimum of 8 weeks before departure and long haul a minimum of 3 to 6 months in advance.
Book directly with the airline and you will normally pay the full published airfare, although they do often have special offers, especially for early bookings so it can still be useful to check their websites. Online flight reservation specialists may negotiate special rates with the airlines due to the volume of business they transact or take a commission cut and then offer the same flight at a discounted rate. These booking agents are also competing with each other which is the reason most travel experts suggest you check the fares at several agents sites before confirming your booking to ensure you have found the lowest fare.
By using comparison sites it is easy to compare not just airlines but many flight reservation specialists quickly and easily with one search
These make it easy to search multiple websites with little effort on your part but each individual comparison site normally only display fares from it's selected suppliers so prices can vary from site to site depending on your route/day etc. No single flight comparison site can compare every available airfare from every airline and agent which is why we now provide our Meta-Search to enable you to quickly compare airfares available from leading comparison sites.
Most but not all websites publish their fares including government taxes and fees. Unfortunately when you commence the booking process you often find a number of additional chargeable options (this is especially true with the budget low cost discount airlines) and will not see these until you have progressed part way through the reservation process. These fees can include such things as hold luggage, reserved seats, booking fees and in-flight meals so as always check the total cost carefully before confirming your booking.
Because of these fees it is impossible to compare fares on a like for like basis. A fare which initially appears more expensive can end up costing less once all the additional fees have been added and you will only be aware of these once you commence the booking process but before you confirm your reservation.
Since flight prices vary enormously due to the laws of supply and demand never assume that a low cost budget airline or charter flight will offer better value than a normal scheduled flight. A discount no frills airline may offer the cheapest fare for your route one day whilst the scheduled carrier offers an even lower fare the next.
If possible try to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday as these tend to be the least busy days for airlines. Our comparison search will alert you if lower fares are available within +/- 3 days. If your dates are not flexible consider an early or late departure as these are less popular and can lead to substantial savings.
Although not applying to all airlines often if you fly midweek and stay at least one Saturday you will be able to take advantage of leisure rate airfares.
Non stop flights are the most convenient and therefore the most popular. If you are prepared to make a connecting flight on route you will often make a major saving although your travel time will increase. If you intend to do this, the safest way is to book the complete flight in one transaction (as a flight from departure to destination) with the same airline to avoid problems with missed flights if you experience delays. Putting together you own itinerary with flights from different carriers could possibly end up with you stranded at the airport leaving you with no option other than to pay full price for a ticket to complete your trip.
Some comparison sites (including our own) now show results for self connect flights where you can combine multiple flights from different airlines or agents which work out cheaper than a standard flight but in some cases may not always allow sufficient time for you to collect your luggage and check in for the connecting flight if you experience any delays. Bear in mind that although these self connect flights can save you money, if you miss your connecting flight it is not the airlines responsibility and you will likely have to buy another ticket for the next available flight.
Always try to fly from the most convenient airport from your home or business. Whilst fares are normally cheaper from the smaller more remote airports any savings made can quickly be eroded by the additional travel costs and possibly an overnight hotel stay prior to your departure. Another thing to consider is the greater risk of travel delays if you have a long journey to the airport which could lead to missing your flight.
Since flight prices are so volatile and often change many times each day it is always going to be a difficult decision as to whether to book now or hold off until later to see if the price goes down. As it is impossible to know how demand will vary from day to day or hour to hour the best advice is that if you are happy with the fare book it whilst it is available. Whilst the price may go down after you have booked it is just as likely to increase.