Flight Booking - Make or Break
Booking the right flight can have many positive knock on effects. The cost, for one thing. I've known friends who have paid $2000 Australian Dollars more for the same flight, to the same place at the same time, albeit roughly. I'm not a fan of a Travel Agent booking mine. They maybe okay for short haul or for simple trips but I find that when I'm travelling long haul from Australia to Europe, for example, my itinerary and personal flexibilities cannot be factored or resolved by an agent. I need to be able to see all of my options and adjust my timings accordingly. My own personal point of preference is Skyscanner.com. From there, I will go direct to the airlines themselves, I check isolated sales and links via the usual search engines but Skyscanner is where it's at for me.
There is much debate about when is the right time to buy your flight. Industry professionals are always having their say but in general, it seems to me, that all of the major airlines are on a loop of continuous sales. I have been known to search for flights for several months before actually buying, and I see incredible differences on an almost daily basis, I usually buy about 6 weeks before I fly, unless, of course, it's a flight that is liable to sell out fast. That being the case, I book a little earlier. I want to save as much money as I possibly can. a) because a flight is a major expense and the more money save here can pay for a hotel upgrade or a whole weekend away. 2 people paying $1300 per ticket instead of $2100 for example, $1600. That's 4 nights in a 5 Star Hotel in Rome. Imagine where those that have paid $3400 for an economy ticket could have stayed. You needn't worry about the price of any restaurant and it just generally increases your spend credentials while away, and b) I truly hate being on a flight knowing that my fellow passengers are flying for a fraction of the cost that I am. Gitty of me I know, but these little irks can all add up and after all, the point of good planning is to iron out all of these little grievances and irritations, and to relax. Flying on a Thursday or Wednesday is cheaper than flying on a Friday for example, and flying on Sunday home again, is cheaper than flying on Saturday when flying from London to Australia. This isn't the case for City hops though, obviously. Monday is your best bet there. So, in a nutshell, moving arrival and departure dates can also save you money.
Timing is everything, but it needn't be. We all want to get to where we're going as quickly as possible, but it's worth considering stop overs. I love the 23 hours it takes to get from Brisbane to London with Etihad for example but once in a while, a supremely cheap flight offer will crop up involving a flight partner, in this case Air Serbia, who were fine, by the way. For example, I recently got a flight that included a stopover in Belgrade, so cheaply, that the savings earned, paid for New Years Eve in Venice on the way back. Now, with no offence meant to my Serbian friends, Belgrade wasn't high on my list of 'must see' places to visit but it does grant you the opportunity to check a place out or even just to cross somewhere off your list. It also meant that we were fresh when we arrived in London and weren't suffering from the usual jet-lag. So, search by 'Cost' but be flexible with the journey time. Even a layover of several hours allows you to going into town for lunch, especially if the airport is close to, or in, the city itself.
Try to stick to the same airline as well as their flight partners. I use Etihad solely for my Europe trips and local carriers for the Pacific side of my travels, .... although I am no big fan of Qantas.... (Maybe one day I will tell you why). Becoming a Silver, Gold, or Platinum Guest Member/Frequent Flyer, pays dividends not only with Reward flights, but also access to Club Lounges, extra baggage allowances and provide you with a far greater likelihood of getting those illusive upgrades - Although these are becoming much less common now that Business Class seat auctions are held in the build up to Departure. The points do soon add up, however, and it does make a difference to the quality of your travel once you start climbing this elitist ladder. Also having your credit cards linked to you frequent flyer account and subscribing to 'point hack' blogs is also advisable. If travelling economy, it is worthwhile remembering that the better the airline is in principal, the busier the flight will be and getting a row to yourself will be much less likely. So those cheaper airline options that you may know little about, usually have a lot more room in which you can settle in and bed down. I flew from London with China Southern Western... or Southern... once and there were 13 of us on the flight. Also other airlines such as EvaAir, out of Taiwan, which were once treated with contempt, are now winning awards across the board and often have a lot more space in which to make yourself comfortable.
Please also look into and think about the consequences of arrival and departure times. Arriving shortly before peak hour traffic can have drastic consequences regarding transfers, taxi fares and travel times. It also has a huge impact on jet-lag and all that it carries with it. Arriving in Paris at 7.30am, after 26 hours on a plane, will impact your day.... or possibly two days, if it goes truly pear-shaped. Much better to arrive early to mid-afternoon. Not only is this your usual check in time anyway, the taxi will be cheaper, or the train less crowded, and once checked in and showered, you should be able to see out the remainder of the day before heading off to bed at the usual time. By doing this your body clock has a much better chance of self adjusting to the new time zone. If you decide to nap, over sleep and wake up groggy, you may well be interfering with that night's sleep and the lag could drag on. This is only one example, but it must be a consideration. A caveat to this, is to book an overnight flight on short hauls that gets you to your destination at sunrise. Not only is your arrival more picture perfect, the traffic is yet to fully awake, but you are now free to enjoy a full day at your chosen destination. Grabbing a few hours sleep in the airport or on the plane should enable you enjoy the full day ahead, especially if it involves lazing blissfully on a beach. You will need to communicate this to your hotel however, to guarantee your early check-in.
Summing up, I understand that not everyone can afford the time to trawl through all the flight variations before booking their trip, but if you make it all part of the fun and appreciate the ramifications of a bad booking or the savings to be gained, it suddenly all seems a lot more worthwhile.
1. Search via Skyscanner regularly and check out the permutations well in advance.
2. Try to be flexible with arrival and departure days, stopovers, layovers and airlines.
3. It's not always about the quickest or the best.
4. Stick to one Airline or Partner Group to achieve maximum benefits later on.
5. Spend plenty of time searching and don't panic buy early. They want the seats sold.
6. Check Arrival and Departure times and adjust accordingly.