To book the cheapest flights to anywhere, all you need is a little basic geography knowledge and these secrets from an ex-travel agent. Use my cheap travel tool to book the cheapest flights to any destination; from Rome to Paris, Sydney to Los Angeles, virtually anywhere, all online.
Most traveller’s are confident booking simple domestic airfares online, but what about round the world fares, or destinations without direct flights from Australia, the UK, or the USA? How do you know you’re getting the cheapest possible flight?
As an ex-travel agent, and solo traveller who’s been to over 55 countries, I’ve seen some awesome fares in my time (50p from London to Dublin). However besides the Jetstar sales (which once you add-on luggage, seats and meals aren’t all that cheap) most travelers still see flight bookings as some mystical lucky dip.
If your goal in life is to see as much of the world, for the least amount of money, then knowledge of airlines and their routes, is essential.
How does Edinburgh to Los Angeles for AUD$297 (USD229, NZD326) sound? Or what about Bangkok to Alicante, in Spain for AUD$591 (USD455, NZD649) or Beijing to San Francisco for AUD$494 (USD382 , NZD543).
>>If you just want to quickly search the flight price between your city and somewhere else, you might want to try my cheap travel tool.<<
Most travellers search for flights from their home city, to their end destination which is logical but there’s hundreds of airlines based overseas that can work out much cheaper. The major carriers servicing Australia and New Zealand, won’t fly you to every destination around the world, and not all airlines based overseas fly all the way to Australia.Here’s a List of IATA recognised airlines to get you started.
Some of them you may recognise, many you probably had no idea they even existed. If you click on each one it should reveal their website, if they have one! The list is certainly not definitive.
Working out a flight itinerary can be frustrating for the geographically challenged, and whilst there’s no single website I’ve found (so far), that matches a travel agents reservation system, however with a little research, you can book almost any destination online.
How Airline Routes Work
Years ago, airlines would have a home base or hub city, they would always fly via. A home base could be where their maintanance took place or where their head office was located, or in the case of international airlines, it would generally be the capital city of that country. For example, Thai Airways is the national carrier for Thailand, and will always fly via Bangkok, Singapore Airlines is the national carrier of Singapore and will always fly via Singapore, just as Aeroflot is the national carrier for Russia and will always fly via Moscow.
There are some exceptions to the rule, (such as the Air New Zealand flight from Sydney to Norfolk Island to Auckland) where an airline may have an agreement to transit (or refuel) at an airport, before flying onto it’s destination. Airlines are continuously renegotiating airline routes to better service their passengers (and their profits); but as a general rule, airlines will fly via their hub city.
Knowing which airlines, fly to what key destinations via which hub city is key to booking the cheapest flight.It may sound complicated but it’s easier to figure out than it seems.
Working out the cheapest route
You’ll need a decent map. Google Earth is amongst the most detailed and it’s interactive, which gives you the feeling of spinning a globe with the added benefit of being able to zoom in and out for more detail. It clearly shows airports, including regional ones.
Find your airline. Wikipedia has a page of budget airlines, organised by region and country. There is also a page dedicated to airlines of Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, South America, North America (including Central America) and Australia.
Which countries and hub cities are on the way to your destination?
Airline Schedules. Airlines don’t fly to every destination, every single day. Finding out which airlines, fly on what days is also helpful to finding the cheapest flight as it cuts down on searches, if you know what days an airline flies between the city pairs you are trying to book.
Here’s the flight schedule between Sydney (SYD) and Los Angeles (LAX).
You’ll notice that Delta and Virgin have the same flight days and times-this is a code share flight, where one airline operates the flight, the other airline buys seats on the flight to save costs and increase profitability.
Flying from A to B isn’t always the cheapest option.For the best possible price, check various itinerary break points.
There are often cheap flights from Australia to Asia:
Singapore (Scoot, Tiger, Jetstar)
Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia)
Hong Kong (Qantas, Virgin)
Then it’s worth checking fares from these cities to Europe, America or Africa. Lufthansa don’t fly to Australia, but they do fly from Asia to Europe. Worthy of a post on it’s own but some Chinese airlines offer cheap flights to European destinations from cities like Guangzhao (CAN), Kunming (KMG) or Chengdu (CTU).
Flying from Australia to Europe, for example, is it cheaper to fly via Singapore, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Beijing, Seoul or Tokyo? (Which airlines would fly these routes automatically?)
What about via Mauritius or Reunion Island? Airlines based in Indian island’s such as the Maldives often fly to France and can be an alternate route to Europe.
Perhaps you can book a cheap flight to Singapore with Scoot or Tiger Air, then Book cheap flight from Singapore to London with a totally different airline like Norwegian Air.
Is there a sector flight (one way) from Asia to Israel (Etihad) that is cheap? Is there then a budget European airline from Israel to London or New York?.
Ask the questions, and you’ll find the cheap airfares. Often airlines make mistakes on these random sector fares too. I’ve heard many stories about business class flights picked up as sector fares for a bargain like $400 instead of $4000 for example.
Some websites allow multi-city itineraries to be booked, utilising one-way fares. Try Jetabroad, Kayak, or Expedia. Be aware they will have agreements with certain carriers so will often bring up their preferred airlines (ones that pay higher commission) first and may not have agreements with budget airlines, but they can be an easy way to start your flight search. Always check various dates for the best prices.
Choose your dates wisely.
The more flexible you are with dates, the cheaper your flights will be. Midweek, outside of school holidays is generally the cheapest, however there are always local factors that may affect price. Luckily now many airlines allow you to see a month at a time, to book the cheapest flight, but generally, March and November are traditionally cheap periods to travel.
Booking in advance can be cheaper, but it’s no guarantee. Sites like Air New Zealand’s Grabaseat and Reverse Auctions often have last minute deals, really cheap. Basically if you see a cheap price, book it.
Compare prices on an airlines own website.
Where possible, check an airlines own website, to make sure you are getting the best possible price. Some flight booking websites or online travel agents drop their commission, in order to get the booking which is why you may find a flight $50 or $100 cheaper on a random website (fly with Betty), however there may be additional fees like credit card charges, so always click through to the payment screen to confirm the final price and don’t fall for their sneaky tactics like these blatant scams.
Compare taxes at different airports.
When flying to Europe, most major cities are the same price, so you can fly into one city, like London and out of another like Rome, for the same base airfare. However airport taxes vary greatly, so choosing different cities, can still affect the overall cost.
There are dozens of budget airlines in Europe and many will fly into smaller regional airports because they offer cheaper landing fees (passed on as cheaper fares). So you might not end up directly in say Paris, but you will be close. Check transfer options from regional airports though before booking, as these can cost more than the flight!
This same principal may work in the USA too. Is it cheaper to fly into a major city, then catch a bus to get to a smaller, regional city rather than fly direct into the regional city?
Sign up to airline sales alerts and frequent flyer programs
Airline sales are often cyclical. For example Jetstar has their ‘Return for Free’ sale to Japan twice a year, Qantas has $500 to Hong Kong each year and then there’s early bird fares to Europe that are released each October for travel in the following year. The furthest you can book in advance is between 9-11 months (varies with each airline). Some budget airlines will only allow 3-6 months in advance.
Enhance your travel stories by flying on exotic sounding carriers like; Lucky Airlines (China), Okay Airlines (China), Wizz Air (Hungary), Spice Jet (India) or Cinnamon Air (Sri Lanka).
So to summarise, to ensure you get the best price, always check:
- Alternate dates (early morning/late night/midweek tends to be cheaper)
- Book in advance (at least six to nine months)
- March and November are typically the cheapest months to travel
- Check nearby cities that might be cheaper
- Be aware of and check alternate flight routes that may be cheaper
- Of course shop around on different websites, any website selling
airline tickets will earn commission-but watch out because not all offerings are the same.
- Airline sales are often cyclical, so sign up and monitor a year in advance
If you see a great deal, book it. Airlines will only allocate a few seats, at the cheapest price. These days it’s common for sale fares to be valid for one or two days only, so if you do see cheap seats available, grab them whilst you can.Curious about cheap flights? Find yours now.
Say an airplane has 100 seats. As an example, an airline may allocate:
5 seats at $100
10 seats at $120
20 seats at $150
50 seats at $200
15 seats at $400
So once those sale seats are gone, there’s still seats on the plane, but the airline is charging a higher price in order to cover it’s operating costs.
Things to be aware of
Every airline has different baggage allowances and rules. Know your allowances before booking your ticket as this can greatly affect price if you go over your allowance. E.g. Some airlines allow 7kg of hand luggage only, others allow 10kg.
Likewise travelling on seperate tickets with different airlines will mean you will need to collect your luggage at any transit points and re-check them in, if you are changing airlines.
If your flight is delayed, and you miss your connecting flight, travelling on seperate tickets with different airlines can mean you have little course of action. Airline A got you to your destination according to their ticket, airline B will count you as a no-show and you may have forfeited your ticket. Check the ticket rules about changes and no-shows carefully. Each airport website should display minimum connecting times, otherwise you can check with the airline you are flying in with.Download millions of tracks, perfect for a long flight, free for three months with Apple Music. You’ll also be helping keep this site going, so it’s a win-win!
It may sound like a lot of work, and full service airlines can work out better value if you want meals and entertainment included, but if like me, you love a great deal and travelling to exotic destinations, then working out your own unique itinerary is all part of the fun of travel.
Check out my Global Disneyland Expedition for an example of creating a round the world trip, using sector fares.
I’ve written other articles about finding cheap flights including; how to book the cheapest flights in America, Cheap flights to China and beyond, and recorded this podcast episode about booking cheap flights as well, which is a summary of everything. You should also read these articles about online travel scams and travel agent secrets.
Why book via my website?
As an independent creative, it’s incredibly challenging to make a living from selling books or my services as a photographer alone, competing against giant corporate conglomerates. However, sharing my wealth of knowledge from years spent travelling, and working in the travel industry provides useful knowledge to you (at no cost) to help make independent travel, easier. The thing is though, it costs real money to keep this website going.
I know you have an array of websites to choose from when it comes to booking your travel arrangements, however Booking your flights, hotels, attractions, day tours, car hire, rail passes, buying guide books, SIM cards and any other travel products you encounter, via links provided on my website, (including this page) costs you nothing extra (in many cases they are discounted from what you could find elsewhere), but it helps keep my website going. Booking via links on my website takes a small commission from large corporations who then give it to me because you clicked on links via my website, thus supporting an independent creative at no cost to you.
As an ex-travel agent, I’m fully aware of what potential online scams are out there, and will only include links I use myself (or plan to).
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