Well, it’s true when they say that flights amount for the biggest expenses for your travels. Anyone and everyone wants to travel the world but only a few end up living their dreams. And the ones who do so aren’t necessarily born with a silver spoon. That being said, it is well understood that people have cracked the puzzle around scoring the cheapest air tickets. Because if you can’t afford your airfare, chances are you aren’t really going anywhere!

Now some may argue if cheaper fares do exist, why do airlines markup their prices to sky-high limits. There are many reasons why this happens. Most airlines only fly limited routes, meaning they are generally flying full and don’t need to go the extramile to fill the vacant seats. Moreover, airlines aren’t the most profitable companies out there and issues surrounding bankruptcy and running losses for a long duration forces them to raise their prices. There are far too many reasons why airlines have stopped giving out steal deals and we can go on and on about them. But let’s just accept it and move on. Afteral we know do know that there are ways around it. You can still score a steal deal if you know the following tricks of the trade.

I personally started traveling over a decade ago and here are some of the best ways that have helped me uncover hidden fares that airlines release every single day. With thousands of flights flown till date, these have surely helped me save a fortune. I am sure they will come in handy for your next adventure.

Your wings already exist. All you have to do is FLY!

  • Flexibility is the key to scoring a deal

    It is no rocket science to realize that you would pay more to fly when everyone else is flying with you; that is to say that airlines set prices based on time of the year, month as well as the week. Holiday seasons are the busiest for the industry as such they tend to make the most money off of this period. Most flights go full, as such you aren’t likely to come across an insanely cheap fare. Instead, travel when everyone else is busy with their normal lives.Now that you have decided on your travel season, you can still save a little money simply by choosing to travel during the weekdays and not on weekends. It’s also necessary to understand that most people prefer flights during the waking hours of the day as such flight in the wee hours of the day (early morning & late nights) generally come with cheaper fares. It’s alright to reach your destination a day or two earlier or even an hour or two before the sun rises, because you just saved a few thousand rupees (or a couple hundred dollars) on your flights.

    It’s generally cheapest to fly out right after a major holiday. As for days of the week, I have seen Tuesday through Thursdays have bagged me the best savings over all these years.

  • Try a detour instead

    Looks like flexibility is indeed a core entity towards finding the best fares out there. Every wondered why its cheaper to fly via Dubai or Abu Dhabi than flying directly to London. The same logic applies to almost every destination that you would want to get to. Let imagine you want to go party your heart out in Ibiza. Here are the two options you have to fly out from Mumbai.

    Here’s the cheapest direct flight you would take (₹23,413)

    Now let’s split this into two different leg

    So you end up paying (₹18,623 +₹1307 =₹19,930)

    Now that’s a saving of over ₹3500. Moreover, most of us are not inclined towards booking flights on deal websites like ‘Gotogate‘, as such the direct flight would cost you over ₹2000 more (in this case) if you book on the official website.

    The easiest way to do this is to first find out the cost of direct flights to your chosen destination. The next step is to figure out the nearby airports. The easiest way to do this it to go to Google Flights and type in your destination. From here it’s a little hard work to figure out which airport you would want to hop from and which airlines/timings you would prefer. But putting in a few extra minutes here will surely save you some big bucks for sure.

  • It’s important you fly to the cheaper destination. So keep it flexible!

    The entire airline industry has evolved over the last decade or so. With search aggregators cropping up every other month, its pretty much a playground and your objective is to go out there and find that great fare. It’s pretty easy and self explanatory actually. Go onto any of the popular aggregators like Kayak or Google Flights and punch in your home airport and use the explore feature. You will come across a world map of destinations showing you flight fares. You just need to pick the best offer and hop onto the net flight out.

    It’s important to know that most airlines will run deals or offers for some or the other destination every single day. As such if you are flexible with your final destination you can pick up some great savings on your ticket.

  • Guess what, budget carriers exist. So take advantage of them.

    Leaving aside the North Americas, it’s pretty easy to bounce around destinations in Europe, Middle East & S.E. Asia for really cheap. There are scores of budget airlines in the region and offers come from as little as $25 (or around EUR 18), which is an amazing deal. Some of the best fares I have seen from my travels have been in Ryan Air, Wow Air (the $99 ticket between Europe & US is real. It does exist.), Air Asia, Norweigian Air & Fly Dubai (If you know where and when to fly out from you can score a roundtrip to Dubai for ₹8000).

    So how do budget airlines make any money right? Well, they make the most money out of customer’s negligence to rules set forth by the airline. From the simplest of rules like printed boarding passes to no check-in baggage rules, low-cost airlines charge heavy penalties (which are always higher than your legacy airlines). So if you not a seasoned flier, I would say do make sure you read through their conditions before you show up at the airport. You wouldn’t want to pay up a huge penalty for a ticket you scored for the cost of a dinner.

  • Where you look for also matters? You can also hire someone to do it for you.

    If you have been doing  a bit of reserach by now, you would realize that most airline search engines omit results from budget airlines as well as non-English websites. There a multiple reasons behind this; most are designed with a cosmopolitan and international traveler in mind. Most websites make money off bookings like affiliates as such tend to pick up legacy airlines. Some of the websites which have helped me in my search and I believe can be great starting points include Momodo & Google Flights; its pretty simple why. Momodo scans through possibly the largest selection of airlines out there including budget airlines. As for Google Flights, its one of the best tools I have see which allows me to shape up my flight plan right from the first search.

    Now what if you don’t want to do all the hardwork? There is a workaround to this as well. Our friends at FlightFox are doing a pretty neat job of finding you the best flights (based on your requirements around airline, travel class and duration). They charge a fixed fee of $25 to get do the research for you but I have seen them come up with some of the best deals yet. I remember getting a business class return from Frankfurt for the price of Economy. but again it works well if you give the enough time in hand to find something for you.

  • Being young is indeed a gift; makes you eligible for Youth/Student fares.

    Although most airlines don’t explicitely mention this but many have special fares for students/youth (under 26). Flight Centre is your one stop solution to figure out deals for under 26 travelers. Many other travel agencies like STA Travel and SNCF also deal in tour packages which include discounted fares for youth/students.

    So, keep that student card handy when you hit the road next time. It is bound to save you a few bucks somewhere.

  • Play around with locations & currencies

    Now this trick doesn’t always work but does work enough so it’s worth a try. It depends on the purchasing power/strength of the currency in which you are looking to transact. As Iwrite this, I am looking an Eitihad Airways roundtrip from Bangalore<>NYC; on the US version of the website (transacting in USD) the price shown is USD 1595 (equivalent to₹1,08,679), whereas the same flight, same class and even the same seats on Etihad India is coming out to be ₹78,966.

    One important thing to note here is that, everytime you go ahead with a transaction in foreign currency do take into account your Forex mark-up & conversaion rates that your bank charges you, as these add-on charges might make your final fare costlier. As such its better to get one of those no-foreign-transaction-fee enabled cards.

  • Search individual seats (Group bookings are generally costlier in case of airlines)

    Unlike other travel services when it comes to airlines going for group bookings might end up costing you more. There’s a very simple reasoning behind this. Flight search engines don’t really add up individual ticket prices, instead they multipley the highest ticket value in your selection with the number of individuals in the search.

    For instance if you are looking at BLR<>BOM for two people and the ticket prices available are₹2.8K & ₹3K, your final price would reflect as ₹6K plus taxes & fees. Whereas if you were to search for the same itinerary as two separate tickets you would have seen₹2.8K for the first ticket and ₹3K for the second (once the first pricing variant is exhausted).

  • Get your frequent flier number. Just Do it. (Most Strategic)

    There are still many out there who think air miles are never going to get them that free ticket as such choose to stay away

    There are still many out there who think air miles are never going to get them that free ticket as such choose to stay away from it all together. When using airmiles, one thing that is crucial to understand is that there are far more ways to top-up your miles instead of just relying on flights taken. Let me pull up an example of context here.

    By far JetPrivilege is the most successful frequent flier program in India. In my opinion its a pretty great program and free flights come by pretty quick. If I look back at the last year, I collected enough JP miles to take upto 18 short flights; which is equivalent to roughly 110,000 JP Miles. Here’s how I managed to pull it off.

    • First off I upgraded my HDFC HetPrivilege Titanium Credit Card to HDFC JetPrivilege World Credit Card; which meant I was earning upto 15 JP Miles on every ₹100 spend on the card.
      Plus I did get a sign-up bonus of 10,000 JP Miles.
    • Next I switched all my card/online purchases to credit card (I am a bit paranoid about building up a big credit card bill as well; so my workaround here was to make a deposit payment to my credit card account from my back account everytime I did a large transaction on the card. This ensured that I wasn’t hit with a huge bill at the end of the month).
      If I take an average of 45K expenditure every month that translates to 6750 JP Miles. Although you don’t earn miles on all transactions like bank payments, fuel expenses and a few others. Give or take, its pretty easy to make upto 5500-6000 JP Miles each month.

      • Somehting to note here is that one of the biggest expense for most folks would be house rent. If you can get your landlord to agree on PayTM payments, you can score miles even on that. It’s tough in Bangalore but not impossible. I did get my landlord to agree to it after months of pestering.
    • Now about earning from flights
      • Book on JetAirways.com and you will earn a bonus of 250 JP Miles.
      • Leaving aside the lower 2 tiers of fare classes, the other two guarantee a minimum of 500 JP Miles
        • I am a Gold member on JetPrivilege, which means I get an additional 50% miles over and above the miles that I received from the flight
      • So on average, each of my short distance flight yields anywhere between 1250-1500 JP Miles easily
    • And finally I also got myself one of the JetPrivilege AMEX cards. They too come with 10,000 bonus miles
    • So that’s about my year with JetPrivilege. To summarise it;
      • 20K JP Miles – Credit Card bonus
      • 6K * 12 = 72K JP Miles – Credit Card Spends
      • I don’t remember the exact number of Jet Airways flights I took but on a lower limit I put it as atleast 20 flights; which is another 20K JP Miles easily
      • A grand total of over 112,000 JP Miles (cheapest redemptions start at 6K JP Miles. So a total of 18 free flights for me last year)

These are just some of the ways to earn miles. There are scores of other ways, right from booking hotels to buying groceries at select stores. You can earn miles for your preferred partner in almost all walks of your life. Do consider signing up for the loyalty program newsletter as they come in with offers to earn bonus miles every now and then.

Needless to say, there is no hidden website or magic way to get cheap air tickets but you are sure to come by the hidden deals if you use the above time-tested tactics. The same have worked for countless traveler before me, the still do woders for me and I am sure they would help you get started on your road to frequent travel as well.

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