Your airline ticket together with your hotel, makes up the largest chunk of your travel budget.
It is therefore extremely beneficial to know how to reduce it.
Like with a lot of things, a plane ticket will be more expensive if the demand is high.
The moment you book is very important is crucial if you want to find the cheapest air ticket.
You can save several hundreds of euros!
1. Choose your moment to book your cheapest air ticket
Think when people usually buy a plane ticket.
Most people book in the afternoon, or in the evening when the day calms down a little.
Do exactly the opposite.
You will find the cheapest air ticket late in the evening or very early in the morning.
Book your flight when no one else does it.
TripAdvisor, Expedia and Travelex worked together on a study of travel behavior around the world.
With data based on 8 billion search results, they tried to predict when is the best moment to get the cheapest air ticket.
The ideal time for a cheaper airline seat depends on the destination, the departure date and if you fly in Economy or Business Class.
Their conclusion is clear: buy your tickets 140 days in advance because at that moment tickets on average are the cheapest.
About 30 days before departure the prices go up exponentially.
Although the prices of a plane ticket vary a lot, there are certain days on which to find the cheapest air ticket.
According to that same study, you can mostly find the best deals on a Sundays. On average prices are the highest on a Friday.
Also think about the day and time of day you want to fly.
The demand for flights is the highest on Monday mornings and Friday evenings due to businessmen leaving or returning from a trip. Avoid these times, and if possible just avoid Mondays and Fridays all together to travel.
Flying during holidays (Christmas, Independence Day, Easter, November and other major holidays) is obviously very expensive as well. Christmas Day, January 1 and New Years Eve on the other hand, are usually extremely cheap days to fly.
The cheapest air ticket is either a real last-minute, or booked at least 140 days in advance.
When we think of last-minute tickets, we think of flights booked in the week before departure, or even 24 hours before. Unoccupied seats on the plane are not profitable for airline companies, and that is an opportunity to find your cheapest air ticket.
However, it is undeniable that in recent years the cheapest flights are those that are booked as soon as they are set up.
Usually this happens 330 days in advance, so it is not really practical to find your cheapest air ticket.
If you are by no means tied to a date, sign up for the newsletters and Facebook pages of the airlines that interest you. You will be the first to be informed of promotions.
2. Use KAYAK EXPLORER
Be flexible with your destinations.
Instead of searching for tickets to a certain place, go where the flights are cheap.
Use the fantastic Kayak Explore tool: specify your departure airport to find the cheapest air ticket.
This is the most effective instrument we use to decide where we travel next.
We often use it as a starting point in our search for the cheapest air ticket.
3. Low cost companies
Don’t worry about the safety of your flight with companies like Ryanair, EasyJet or AirAsia.
You can often save a lot of money by finding the really cheapest air ticket.
Be aware, however, that the first rate displayed is in no way the price that you will finally pay in the end.
You will find extra costs along your way.
Low cost flights are often very early in the morning when there is no public transport. If you don’t have someone who can drive you to the airport, it will force you to take your own car and pay gigantic parking fees at the airport, or pay a taxi or a Uber, or you will even consider spending the night before in a hotel near the airport.
The same goes for when you travel late in the evening and arrive at your destination at midnight. You pay for an extra day in your hotel without actually being there. A return flight early in the morning often requires you to leave your hotel very early as well. Which means that your 7 day holiday actually becomes a 5 day holiday.
The airports where low cost airlines fly to are often very far from your place of destination, which you can only reach by taxi or use expensive shuttle busses. Think of airports such as Treviso and Venice, Girona and Barcelona, Reus and Barcelona, Charleroi and Brussels, Paris and Beauvais.
Low cost airlines charge high supplements for your luggage that is not included in your ticket. They are very strict on hand luggage as well, for which you have to pay extra as well. Because of the growing number of claims of passengers being treated as livestock and slammed with ridiculous extra costs right before boarding, Ryanair for example was forced to be a little more flexible on this subject.
It would accept a (very) small handbag in the cabin now. Since the end of 2018, Ryanair has found other ways to charge you extra. This means that everyone has to pay a supplement for luggage, even hand luggage.
You pay for paying your ticket: you can only book online by credit card, for which you are charged extra!
In case of problems (flight delay, flight cancellation) low cost airline assistance is almost zero. It is impossible to reach a help desk if you have questions or if you need to find a quick solution. In most cases you will get your money back but it is difficult and will take several months. We have been there too: what a burden to recover money from a canceled flight by Ryanair. A scandal.
Conclusion: it happens more than often that with all the extra hidden fees, in the end the cheapest air ticket for a low cost flight is more expensive than a regular flight.
But even when a low cost ticket is much cheaper, still consider the negative side effects of impracticle hours, very long bus ride after your arrival or the lack of flexibility in case of a problem. You might want to pay a little more for a ticket with a more expensive airline to have a relatively carefree trip.
4. The cheapest air ticket with a flight comparator?
When you book an airline ticket, you obviously want the cheapest air ticket.
For this, use a good airfare search tool.
In recent years, we spent a lot of time comparing different sites like Kayak, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Momondo, etc.
Our criteria for a good airfare search tool are:
- It systematically offers the cheapest air ticket.
- Doesn’t only search for round trip tickets, but also multi-stops tickets, which is interesting in the case you want to prolong your trips (for example to make a long stop over in Hong Kong before visiting Vietnam).
- It has global coverage.
- It also includes low cost companies (this is the case of very few sites because margins obviously drop considerably).
- It offers the opportunity to find the best prices thanks to the flexible dates system. It is crazy what you can save (up to 75%!) by taking your plane one day or two sooner or later.
- The indication of the actual number of flight hours to be able to choose the shortest flights, and avoid endless stops in transfer airports (sometimes up to 12 hours).
- The possibility of filtering the results according to many criteria, such as direct flights only.
After testing many airfare search tools in our long career of traveling, we come to the conclusion that there is only one that systematically responds to our criteria: the best is without a doubt Kayak.
In almost all cases, we found that it offered us the cheapest air ticket of all the comparators, and in some cases even cheaper than promotions on the airline website. It even includes the flights of Ryanair.
It is always a good idea to compare the result obtained by Kayak with the website of the airline you consider flying with.
Normally it should offer the cheapest air ticket since it eliminates intermediaries.
For the last years, it is not always the case.
But as you eliminate intermediaries (numerous on Kayak), it allows you to have direct access to the company in case of problems (cancellation or change of flight, choosing the seats, etc.).
Do not neglect this last aspect. We remember a flight canceled by Qatar Airlines, but bought on Kayak. Qatar’s assistance was inexistent because of that.
Did you misspell your name when booking your ticket? Is your flight delayed or canceled? It is better to deal directly with the airline rather than with an intermediary. It will be simpler and fast.
We really speak from experience: you cannot imagine the burden that it is to have to phone from Tokyo to Go Trips (the intermediar): the time difference, 47 minutes of waiting before finally being able to talk to someone, etc.
A couple of years ago it was useful to check the prices within the same airline, but via the various sites of its subsidiaries abroad. For instance check the prices not only on Qatar.com, but also on Qatar.be, qatar.fr, qatar.co.uk, etc. Nowadays we find that this has become less and less interesting. It costs you a lot of time for very little result.
You will also notice that in many cases, a one way flight is also expensive. In some cases even more expensive than a round trip.
It is very frustrating, especially for digital nomads like us.
And yes, we sometimes buy cheaper round trip flights, and forget about the return flight. Attention here: if you do not show up for your first flight, your airline will automatically cancel your return flight as well.
5. Price isn’t everything
In general, the cheapest air ticket will be the one with long stopovers.
We can assure you, however, that there is nothing fun about spending 2 to up to 24 hours in transit airports in total.
This is why the ‘direct flight’ option on Kayak is so interesting.
We gladly spend a few dozen dollars more to avoid this.
You will also learn to appreciate the leg space between the seats on long-haul flights, especially if you are as tall as Luc.
Very often, the cheapest air ticket on low cost flights requires you to spend ten hours with your knees almost reaching your chin. Luc remembers a low cost flight from Paris to the Bahamas where he needed three days of massages to reduce the pain in his legs.
Famous airlines like Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Cathay, Qatar, Etihad, Emirates, Asia, ANA, etc. are indeed much more comfortable for long trips.
They offer more comfortable seats, better meals (Singapore Airlines! Thai Airways! Japan Airlines!), good screens for movies, etc.
If business class is possible within your budget, don’t hesitate.
For long-haul flights, business is a blessing: you will have access to comfortable lounges in airports (with meals, shower and wi-fi), to gourmet meals during your flight (some airlines serve food worthy of a Michelin star) and especially seats that allow you to sleep flat like in a real bed.
6. Pay your cheapest air ticket smart
Obviously, pay for your cheapest air ticket with a good credit card, like American Express, in order to collect additional airmiles later, and enjoy the travel assurance benefits.
Finally, don’t forget to show your airmiles card when boarding for even more airmiles!
7. The travel-hacking of the cheapest air ticket in practice
- Go on Kayak, maximum 140 days before your departure.
- Search for a Wednesday departure and arrival.
- Activate the option flexible dates.
- Choose the cheapest day (see tip 1).
- Classify flights according to their duration to avoid long, unproductive stopovers.
- Choose the flight with the best good airline / price ratio.
- Before booking, compare the price you obtain with that on the website of the actual airline. Is the price the same or almost the same, consider buying your tickets directly with the airline company.
- Pay with your American Express credit card.
- Show your airmiles card before boarding.
- Now combine your cheapest air ticket with good accommodation (hotel, apartment or guest room) on Booking.com.