Hunting out the biggest flight bargains will usually take some time and research. Flight prices fluctuate regularly on most routes which means there are no hard and fast rules on exactly when the very best flight deals will be available.
However, the good news is that there are a number of tactics holidaymakers can use to their advantage to help them find the best prices. Read on to discover our cheap flight secrets.
Airline prices will fluctuate depending on the day of the week or time of year you travel. It’s no secret that if you travel during popular times such as Christmas or the school holidays, you’ll pay more.
Flying at the weekends will also usually be pricier than mid-week, and Mondays and Fridays tend to be more expensive as these are more popular for business trips.
However, in some instances, there can also be price fluctuations for flights on the same date to the same destination. Prices can vary depending on demand, the airline you use, whether you fly direct and the time you choose to fly.
It’s often possible to save on flight costs if you’re flexible with the time you travel, particularly on less popular routes.
“Aiming for flights that leave between 7:00-8:00 a.m. will put you between heavier travel times in the early and mid-morning,” said Skyscanner’s Laura Lindsay.
“Likewise, you’ll typically find fewer crowds in the late evening, around 9:30pm and later.”
Depending on your destination, further savings can be made on long-haul flights if you’re prepared to break up your journey with a stopover.
According to Tristan Sire of Jack’s Flight Club, stopping flights might be able to save you £30 to £50 return, or up to £150 if you’re happy to stay overnight. “Airlines feel that they can coax you into paying extra for the convenience and time savings,” he explained.
Savings are most likely to be made on routes without much competition between airlines, such as flights to Sri Lanka.
Flights to places such as New York, on the other hand, might be cheaper direct as many different airlines serve the route.
Airlines tend to release tickets around 11 to 12 months in advance, though some, such as Ryanair, release tickets about five to six months before departure.
You can usually sign up to receive airline emails and alerts so you’ll know as soon as tickets are on sale. Booking early will give you more flexibility and choice, as well as guarantee you a seat, which is particularly important if you’re travelling in peak season. In many cases, booking early will also be cheaper, but this will depend on both demand and the destination.
If you’re booking a summer break to popular destinations such as Malaga, Faro and Alicante, research by Skyscanner shows the best time to book is actually two to five weeks ahead.
For less popular routes with empty seats, the airline might drop prices close to the departure date and you could bag a last-minute bargain.
When comparing airline prices, the tips below should help you find the best deal:
Compare both direct and stopping flights: If you don’t mind a stopover, check the cost of both types of flights to see how much you might be able to save
Check the flight times: If you can be flexible with the time you fly, check whether flying late at night or early in the morning reduces the price
Check both single and return flights: It could be cheaper to fly out with one airline and return with another, even if it’s from a different airport
Compare flight and hotel packages: You could save money by booking your flight and accommodation in one package through an online travel agent
Check what’s included: Although the initial price might look cheap, some airlines charge extra for luggage, reserved seats, and food and drink, so factor this into your budget
Check flexibility: Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, flexibility is more important than ever so check how easy it is to cancel or change your flight – it may be worth paying more for the flexibility
You can find cheap flights by looking at flight comparison sites such as:
It’s a good idea to check two or three of these to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you’re planning a holiday to a popular resort destination such as Malaga or Tenerife, it’s also worth checking tour operators such as Tui and First Choice to see what they have to offer.
Charter flights can sometimes work out cheaper.
If you’re not fussed about where you fly to, it should be easier to bag a cheap flight. Sites such as Skyscanner and Kayak give you the option of entering ‘everywhere’ or ‘anywhere’ in the destination box, along with the dates you want to fly.
You’ll then be able to see a list of flights leaving from your chosen airport on that date, from the cheapest to the most expensive. A quick search for flights leaving on 20 April 2022 on Skyscanner, for example, revealed prices from just £11 to Milan in Italy, or £13 to Hamburg in Germany.
Alternatively, take a look at flight alert sites such as Jack’s Flight Club or Holiday Pirates.
Jack’s Flight Club sends emails to its members with details of cheap flights, helping you to grab a bargain if you’re not bothered where you go. Holiday Pirates also lists deals on flights and hotels and again, you can sign up to email alerts.
Whether you’ll be able to grab a last-minute bargain will usually depend on the airline.
You can use sites such as Lastminute.com to hunt for flights and it’s also worth checking budget airlines such as Ryanair or Easyjet for late deals.
But you’re most likely to find a cheap flight ticket last minute with charter airlines like Tui.
Because the whole plane will have been booked for packaged holidaymakers, charter airlines will often sell off any unsold seats at the last minute at reduced rates. For further tips on last minute holidays, read our last minute holiday checklist.
As well as the flight itself, you’ll also need to factor in the costs below:
As mentioned above, depending on the airline, you may need to pay extra for each bag you want to check in, in-flight snacks, seat reservations and online check-in and priority boarding.
Travelling as light as possible, buying food and drink at the airport and not being fussy about where you sit can keep these costs down. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website has an airline charges comparison table which can help you understand which airline charges what.
If you’re driving to the airport, you’ll also need to pay for parking. To keep costs as low as possible, be sure to shop around using a comparison site and book early.
If someone is dropping you off at the airport, charges can still apply.
Again, the CAA website has a useful airport charges comparison table which you can check.
If you’re not driving, you’ll also need to factor in the costs of getting to the airport and getting to your accommodation at your destination.
Compare options such as trains, buses, coaches and taxis to be sure you’re getting the best price.