With airfare being the most expensive part of most travel, it is natural to save on flights as a mission that many travelers would like to complete successfully. Maybe that's why this is the question I get asked the most: "how can you buy cheap flights?”
First of all, it should be said that there are no miracles. Nowadays, flights are not as accessible as they used to be. Just remember that not many years ago they arranged flights between Portugal and Brazil for just over 300 €, round trip. And I already bought a return flight between Porto and Dublin for 0,02 €, final price.
The truth is that with the introduction of exorbitant fuel supplements and the unreasonable increase in security charges and other penalties, it is increasingly difficult to buy cheap flights. And neither low cost this generalized price increase.
Fortunately, you can still find good opportunities. The key to finding them is to have flexibility, persistence and being well informed, since there are promotions that last only a couple of days (or less).
Let's take a practical example by choosing a destination where there are no direct flights from Portugal (to increase the complexity of the process).
Suppose then that we want to travel to Tehran for two weeks in the last fortnight of September. How do you find the best flights?
1. Search for a global aggregator
I always start my search for cheap flights on the Google Flights, do not Momondo or Skyscanner, because they are global aggregators that include different search engines in their results, and thereby increase the possibility of finding good links and low prices.
Between the last two, I prefer Momondo, but it's a personal opinion. In its favor, it has the ability to search flights to one destination with the return of another (open jaw, in aviation terminology). Other recommended aggregators are Dohop and Vayama.
Then look for flights to Tehran available with one way day 15 and return to 28 in September.
On these dates, the most competitive prices are from Lufthansa, a quality company with hub in Frankfurt: Momondo indicates a price of 677 € and the 683 € Skyscanner.
Note that in both sites, the cheapest flights appear as being marketed by an agency called Travelgenio instead of the airline itself. When this happens, count on a extra commission to be added to the indicated price.
This first step provides us with a starting point for getting an idea of flight prices on the dates when, ideally, we would like to travel.
But just look at it that way, as a simple starting point. That is, do not book the first flight that appears to you.
Buying cheap flights requires persistence, but the effort almost always pays off.
2. Check which airlines fly to the destination
When you visit Skyscanner, you may want to take the main airlines flying to the destination. To do this, look at the right side of the search results, where "Main operators on this route" is indicated.
Note: If you want to travel to a city with several airports, do not choose a specific airport in the searches. That is, choose London (LON) instead of London - Heathrow (LHR).
3. Browse alternative dates
Perhaps the most important requirement for getting cheap flights is to have flexibility of dates. And not only to avoid times of great demand like the Carnival or the end of the year. It is that, often, Flying mid-week is cheaper than on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (in addition to the holidays). And it is not uncommon for a rate to vary 40% or 50% between two consecutive days regardless of the day of the week.
Using the Momondo, I will then research in days approaching my ideal date to see if there are cheaper airfares.
Within a few seconds, I find that if I come back one day later - 15 to 29 from September - Turkish Airlines has 648 prices.
And if you depart a day early - travel from 14 to 28 in September -, the price of the flight is even lower, also with Turkish: 620 €.
To maximize chances of success, you need to try half a dozen date combinations, advancing or delaying the day of departure, the return, or both simultaneously.
4. Visit the sites of airlines
Having identified the preferred companies and having an idea of the best dates, the next step is to confirm the prices directly in the sites of the abovementioned airlines. More importantly, this is the ideal time to view prices in the form of "calendar" and be able to discover even cheaper flights.
Do not forget to perform the search by checking the option that says "flexible dates"Or similar, to have access to the price calendar.
And the search result ...
So, using our date with better prices, 14 to 28 in September, we see that the Lisbon - Tehran flight appears slightly higher than in Momondo (646 € instead of 620 €) but the value in website of Turkish is already the final price, so the real difference is insignificant.
Best of all, with this search in the calendar, I discovered that if you postpone the journey for 2 days, with going to 16 in September and returning on 30 day, the price drops sharply to a very friendly 468 €.
With all this, I am saving more than 200 € against the original research (about 30%).
The price is excellent, but we still need to check the sites da Lufthansa, which showed the lowest prices in the first survey, as well as Emirates (via Dubai) and KLM (via Amsterdam), two airlines that Skyscanner listed as operating on the Lisbon - Tehran route. I will ignore Alitalia, also mentioned, because it is a very weak company where only flight in last resort.
At KLM, the minimum price was 969 €, so I ignored it immediately. And at Emirates there were no flights below 624 €, so the cheapest offer remained the Turkish one.
5. Pay attention to connection times at airports and to the number of stopovers
It should be noted that cheaper flights often involve many hours of waiting at connecting airports.
Let's return to the Turkish search and, taking advantage of the most favorable dates from 16 to 30 in September, I will then confirm that the great price of 468 € does not imply getting 10 or 15 waiting hours in Istanbul; or even spend the night in the city and with it, having to spend money on accommodation (or sleeping at the airport).
Fortunately, 9h35 on the go is pretty good and 13h40 on the back is perfectly acceptable. Note that on return there is a trip with total duration of only 11h55; but it does not allow me to book at the same rate, so I keep the option cheaper.
Regarding the number of stops, the proposed airfares involve only one stop (in Istanbul), which, with no direct flights from Lisbon to Tehran, is the best possible scenario.
Note: cheap flight is not always the best; sometimes it pays to pay a little more to have a less tiring trip (shorter and less scales) and reach the destination more quickly.
6. Study alternative routes
Although I am very satisfied with the price, I never buy a ticket from Portugal without doing one last check. I do not recommend this step to everyone, because it almost always involves buying two different tickets, with the inherent risks - but why not look for flights from other airports?
This is because there are hubs in Europe from where tariffs have traditionally been lower than in Portugal. It all depends on the routes and their competition, but London, Madrid, Frankfurt and Milan are some of these examples.
In the case of my route to Tehran, I then returned to Momondo and I did research on flights to Tehran on a number of dates, originating in half a dozen European cities, with easy access from Portugal.
It takes work, but sometimes there are some precious things. As was the case: return flight between Milan and Tehran by 299 €, via Istanbul, with Pegasus Airlines.
But is it worth going to Milan to catch the flight to Tehran?
This is a question that only each one can answer, according to the risks that he is willing to take and after researching the schedules and prices of flights between Portugal and Milan, and add the costs of this flight with any overnight stays and transfers between airports.
In this case, I did not find timetables that allowed me to catch the Pegasus flight without having to sleep in Milan, so I opted for the Turkish flight to 468 €. But if you traveled with a companion, going early and sharing the room was surely worth it.
Note: For those who live in Porto, it is always worthwhile to compare the price of flights from Lisbon. It is often cheaper to go by train to Lisbon and catch the plane there; instead of flying from the Francisco Sá Carneiro airport.
7. Book flights without hesitation
Once you have successfully identified one or several cheap airline tickets, there is no hesitation. It's book and buy immediately. Because with the speed at which aviation prices change, tomorrow may be too late.
That's what I did in this case.
With the fare adjustments of the day, the plane ticket to Tehran got me for exactly 467,61 €. Not bad for a trip between two cities that are more than 5.000 miles apart!
In short, I managed to save 210 €. It may not be a fortune, but it's always 210 extra that I have to spend on the trip.
Note: If you pay for your airfare by credit card, do not forget to take the card with you to show it at check-in.
More tips for buying cheap flights
Buy flights in advance
It's about time that the best time to buy cheap flights was roughly 8-10 weeks in advance of the match. Now, the sooner the better, except for the last-minute promotions that sometimes appear, low cost (but it is always a risk, because they may never appear to the intended destination).
That is, start researching as soon as you are thinking about visiting a place; nor that 10 months away. That's what I usually do.
Airline fares are a kind of roller coaster; today they are very high, tomorrow in fall, a week higher still. That is to say, in order to get low prices, one must go researching regularly; because prices often vary without warning.
To decrease the amount of research needed, do you have any questions about flights to Momondo? for your dates. This way, you automatically receive price changes (up or down) for your flights. If there is a significant drop, it is probably time to buy the flights!
Be aware of airline promotions
One way for companies to increase their financial liquidity is to make early sales promotions where they sell cheap air tickets well in advance of the departure date.
In the same way, they often make last minute deals to fill up the planes or reduce losses. Now, how can I benefit from these announced promotions? Naturally, being informed of its existence.
I subscribe to dozens of newsletters to stay abreast of promotions. You can simply subscribe to my newsletter that I notice it when it becomes aware of a break-in promotion.
Be flexible in destination
When an irreproachable promotion appears, there is no need to be afraid to change plans because the opportunity can never be repeated. For thinking like this, sometimes I travel to a different place than I was planning. Saving hundreds of euros.
Earn frequent flyer miles
It is true that miles are no longer as advantageous as they once were (largely because of the fuel supplements and other fees you always have to pay even on a "free" ticket); but even so, do not accumulate them is stupidity.
In addition, at least once a year, companies such as TAP launch campaigns that allow you to enjoy premium tickets with half or one quarter of the miles normally required.
And then? Do you feel better prepared to find cheap flights and thus save money? Do you have a different method to book cheap flights? Share your experience - we all have to win.
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