It’s flight booking time!

Example of a special offer for discounted flightsI’m sure that you always want to pay the least amount for the services you receive. We all do. And still, only some pay less while many pay more for similar seats on the same flight. In this series I will explain to you how you can be one of the few who pay the lowest price for a certain flight of their choice.

Choosing the right time to book

I found myself in situations when the person sitting next to me had paid 100+ EUR for a flight ticket I had bought for only 20. Same airline, same flight date/time, same services; the only difference was the time when we made the booking. One of the most important things when buying tickets with lowcost airlines is deciding when to buy them. There is no straight answer to the question “how long in advance should I book my tickets”, as it depends on many aspects. However, I will try to address all of them in the sections below.

How does the airline (management) think?

First of all, it is important to understand how lowcost airlines think and which their objectives are. Their main objective is, obviously, obtaining the highest revenue possible. In order to achieve this goal they have 3 main methods:
- Offering a small number of tickets at very attractive prices (that actually do not cover their real costs)
- Selling most of the tickets at higher prices (to compensate for the cheap ones and make profit)
- Selling as many seats on a plane as possible. Every penny counts!

Most of the lowcost airlines have their own strategy that combines the 3 methods (and not only), but they are very similar.

Generally, ticket prices start from a low value, let’s say 30 EUR /pax /one-way. There are only 2-6 tickets at this price on a certain flight. When they are sold out, the next 4-10 tickets will cost 40 EUR. The next ones will be at 60, 80… and so on.

If we are talking about a flight during the low season (eg. April for a Manchester to Palma de Mallorca flight), most airlines make special offers for it 1 or 2 months before the departure date (in January-March). The offer may sometimes be at a lower price than the first tickets sold on the plane. The purpose of this offer is for the airline to sell the empty seats on any low season flight and to be able to advertise really low fares.

When to book a flight for the low season?

First of all, you should look into the airline’s habits. Check their website for special offers. If they often have special offers, there is a big chance that they will issue a special offer for your flight 1-2 months before your departure date. Also, check the current prices for your flight and compare them to the prices of other flights that are on sale now. If the price for your desired flight is way higher NOW than the prices on offer, you may want to wait for an offer 1-2 months before your departure date. When making this comparison be careful to check for flights on the same weekdays as yours!

When to book flights for the high season?

The busy season is the period when everybody wants to go on holiday. It’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve time, Easter, school holidays and the summer for most destinations. For flights to airports that are near to or in the mountains, winter is also high season, as many people go skiing.

Airlines know that they will have high demand for busy season flights and that tourists are willing to pay a lot of money for their flight (especially if they have already booked the accommodation). That’s why few lowcost airlines have very good offers for high season tickets. And even so, special offer prices are generally higher than the initial ticket price. Therefore, even if you wait for an offer, chances are that the discounted prices will still be higher then the price somebody who booked 6-8 months in advance paid.

Does this strategy really work?

I’ve been using it for more than 3 years now and all my friends are relying on it (and on my advice) when booking lowcost flights on discount airlines. Up until now, it only happened to me once to see a much lower price than the one I had paid. I had bought that ticket in order to go to a wedding that I couldn’t miss, so… I preferred to book it in advance, so as to be sure that I was going to be on that plane!

How much should I spend for this flight?

Are you planning to fly in the near future? Do you already know the destination and the dates, but you’re not sure weather to book it now or to wait? Ask me about it in a comment and I will help you decide! Are you wondering “how much should I expect to pay for this flight?”. Give me your flight details and I will let you know…

3 comments

  1. Amit says:

    Hi,

    I am planning to travel from Atlanta(ATL) to Mumbai(MUM) on 16th Dec 2011 and back on 2nd Jan 2012. But the flight rates are looking too high. Can you please suggest me when should I look for best and cheap deals. Also what is approximate I will have to pay during this period.

    • Lucian says:

      Hi Amit,
      Your flight dates are the most requested ones during the winter season. That’s why, the price is very high, starting from $2231.

      The good news is that they will not increase much the following few months. So, you could wait for 1-2 month, check the prices regularly, and hope to find discounts that will allow you buy it under $2000.
      Are your dates flexible? For example, if you can return on Tuesday, 3rd of January, you can book it now starting from $2010.

      The bad news is that the price will not drop dramatically, as there are only a few carriers on this route and they are sure to have the airplanes full, so no reason for big discounts.

  2. [...] hold luggage, airport check-in and for carrying more than 1 piece of hand luggage. I agree with the prices that increase as the flight date gets closer and with the extra charges for priority boarding and extra leg room. I also agree with reasonable [...]

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