If you often book flight tickets online, you may have noticed how quickly fares go up if you repeatedly look for a particular destination around specific dates. Well, you’re not alone and there’s a reason why this happens. But there’s a way to avoid this. Remember that flight tickets could eat into your budget if you haven’t booked them well in advance, especially if you’re planning to go abroad. So if you don’t want to cut down on your spends or cancel those shopping plans, here are a few things you can do to try and get cheaper fares.
Keep it a secret
Did you know that most browsers allow cookies to track your searches and the actions you perform online? And when you keep searching for the same route again and again, the website scares you into booking the tickets immediately by increasing the fares.
But there’s a solution to this. All major browsers, including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari, have what is called an incognito tab which allows you to search in private mode. This private browsing window restricts websites from collecting your activity data. So if the flight aggregator you’re looking at isn’t able to collect data about the route you’re looking for, it will not be able to inflate prices. In Google Chrome, you can open an incognito tab by pressing ctrl+shift+N and in Safari you can do this by clicking on the “file" option in the menu bar and then choosing the “new private window" option from the drop down menu.
However, aggregators have a different take. Balu Ramachandran, senior vice-president, Cleartrip, an online travel company, said pricing is based on fare classes and each class is allocated a fixed number of seats. “Imagine there’s only one seat remaining at the current fare class, and many users are trying to book the ticket at the same time. So except one user who paid first, all others who are still filling their traveller details are bound to see fare change because the next fare class at a higher fare opens up," said Ramachandran. While this may be true for the fare changes that happen at the payment stage, searching in private mode will restrict fare escalation at the browsing stage.
Compare the cost
There are some aggregators which are popular because of their advertising campaigns, but don’t go for them blindly. Even if you are in a hurry, comparing the prices from two or more websites always helps. Note that there are websites such as Ixigo.com and Travelibo.com that help you compare costs from across most travel sites. And some portals such as Easemytrip.com waives off the convenience fee.
Booking flight tickets through the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website is another option to save some money. The portal charges only ₹59 (including GST) as convenience fee which is much less than what most other travel portals charge. Portals charge a convenience fee of ₹ 200-400.
Also, try and search for flights on more than one browser to be sure that you are able to scan through all the listed flights.
Round trip may not work
You may think booking a return ticket will lower your fares but this may not always be true. It’s a good idea to check fares for round trip as well as one-way flights before you finalize.
Budget airlines are usually cheaper when you look for a one-way flight. It may take more time and patience, but it will be worth the effort if you look through the prices offered by various airlines.
Also, booking a flight with one or more stops could reduce your total cost. “International flights may involve one or more stops, and such flights usually come at lower fares," said Ramachandran.
Pick the right dates
Unless it’s an emergency, being flexible with your travel dates will help you save considerably. Most websites mention the cheapest fares on the calendar while you’re booking tickets. Note that weekends and around festivals is when tickets are more expensive.
“It is advisable to book tickets well in advance for long haul trips. Usually, air tickets witness a hike in prices during the final three weeks before departure," said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C), Yatra.com. However, if you can be flexible, spend some time and see what dates have the cheapest flights.
The departure time also could have an impact on the fares. Usually, flights between 11am and 8pm are more expensive than the ones for other time slots. “There is significant difference between airfares during off peak and peak hour flights. Off hours tend to have low passenger traffic, thus offering lower airfare," said Dhall.
Use your reward points
If you’ve accumulated reasonable reward points, you will be able to fly for free as well. If you’re a frequent flyer, getting a travel credit card will help you earn reward points and get special discounts that can be used to book tickets. Also, if you’re loyal to a particular airline, joining their rewards programme is a good idea.
Dhall said travellers can also consider discount airlines, and browse through airline special offers. Many aggregators offer discount coupons at the check-out page. However, most websites don’t highlight this section too well so it’s better you run a quick check through the website for any discount coupons that may be on offer.
Lastly, if you’ve earned discount coupons while using certain other service-based apps, then remember to redeem those as well. Make the most of your money the next time you’re booking a flight. Bon voyage!