The cost of holiday air travel can vary greatly. For a trip to an exotic destination on the cheap you really need to either:
Both approaches work well and are the first step towards getting very cheap International air travel. Compromise a little to save a lot.
If you know exactly where you want to go then you will need flexibility over when you will go. on the other hand, if you have a set timetable, a cheap and enjoyable flight can be yours at whatever budget you set as long as you can be flexible about the exact destination.
The secret of really cheap travel is to be opportunistic. This means you will have to stop trying to get the specific flight that meets exacting specifications.
If you can say 'close enough', then you can begin to explore exotic destinations around the globe at a fraction of the prices they advertise in travel agencies. Read on and I will explain this further.
Once you have an idea of where or when to go, get on the web and do a bit of comparison shopping.
Buying a ticket on the Internet does not guarantee you get the cheapest price. Internet operators are travel agents and as with all travel agents, you may be offered either the lowest price flights imaginable, cheap flights, flights at a good price or just an average price. You will still need to compare the quoted price with other agents.
Thankfully there are plenty of flight price comparison web sites out there and they will all show you the cheapest available flights in real time. Cheap flights don't have to mean a 'cheap' holiday. You can find luxury travel at cheap prices if you take the time too seek them out. Also they may offer the chance to buy two one way fares at a fraction of the price of a return fare package.
Now stop! Don't just leave it there. Now you must do the clever bit of research. Go to a travel discussion newsgroup and ask other travelers about very cheap international flights. For example, If you want to fly to one particular destination, you may find that just one hour away is an airport that has much cheaper flights. This is what I mean by saying 'good enough'.
For example, you may believe you might believe that you 'must fly with airline X.' However, small local airlines that you have never heard of are sometimes better placed to offer deals that never appear on the big flight comparison websites. Through a bit of research very cheap international flights will eventually come to you. Sign up on newsgroups and trawl the google groups archives, rec.travel.air being particularly useful.
Check with a cheap airline. For example excel airways seem to always be discounting about 20 percent of their tickets as loss leaders which means they make no profit from those cheap tickets and you and I pick up amazing bargains as a result.
Once you have checked, check again. Low-cost flights are getting cheaper and cheaper in Europe as Jet2.com, Monarch, bmibaby and others fight in a silent price war for low cost travelers. Long-haul flights from Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines are also competing with each other, both thrying to outdo the competition for cheap flights.
In the meantime, EasyJet has launched cheap flights from Glasgow to Paris and from Belfast to Prague, Barcelona, Venice and Gdansk, so cheap flights from one side of europe to the other are getting more and more numerous.
Airlines sometimes fail to sell seats and ed up with an excess of capacity. Then, because any revenue is better than none at all they offer very quick sales of flights. These might only last 24 hours, but can really give rock bottom prices to the people who snap them up.
If you still want to be fussy and say things like "I have to fly with Virgin" then you may have problems finding very very cheap flights , but there is still some hope for cheap flights. What you need to do before talking to a travel agent is to find out which flights are almost always empty. Is there a 2.00am flight? It might be a pain to turn up at the airport at the end of the day rather than the start, but it could mean a saving of as much as 60% in the cost of the flight.
Most travel agents forget to even mention night flights to many customers. So its cheap, cheap, cheap all the way if you just look out for those great cheap travel and cheap flight deals.
Courier companies sell cheap airfares or even give away free tickets in exchange for using your luggage allotment for business documents or small packages that they need transporting. Since 9/11 the rules on these offers have been tightened, but they are still a great option for the ultra flexible traveler.
Only when courier companies become desperate at the last minute do they offer free flights. If offered a flight that evening Chicago to London for $200, you can counter, "Okay, but I'll only do it for free." There's a chance they'll agree or come down on the price, especially if you've flown with them previously.
Don't pay to join a 'club' that will help you get courier flights. These offer no help whatsoever. Better to ask at your local airport for the names of reputable courier companies and approach them directly.
British newspapers have been selling whole holidays for less than ten pounds for the last few years. Do look out for the vouchers which must be collected over a week to make you eligible to claim a very cheap flight indeed. If you are not a british national, check with the terms and conditions to make sure you are eligible to take advantage of these offers.
Package holidays are sometimes sold off so cheaply that it becomes a realistic option to buy a complete holiday just for the cheap flights. Once at your destination, get the contact number of the holiday rep (just in case there is a problem with the return flight) and head off under your own steam to enjoy the holiday you really want. Let the rep know you will not be using their accommodation, otherwise you could end up accidentally causing an international missing persons alert.
The profit margins are so small and competition so fierce in the low cost flights sector that you need to be aware of the small, but significant risk of the carrier or travel agency closing down between the time of you buying your cheap air ticket and actually flying. Particularly with smaller airlines and low cost travel agents you really need to ensure the one you buy a cheap flight from is bonded so that whatever happens, you can get back home again. In the UK associations such as the ABTA can tell you all about this.
Some cheap travel websites are fraudulent. Be careful, because occasionally you will find a travel website that looks legitimate, but is just a con. The easy checks are to see if they have an ABTA or other recognised travel industry organisation logo on their site and then cross reference them on the website of that organisation.
May airlines (and particularly the budget airlines) are charging a separate credit or debit card booking fee of about £5.00 for each leg of a trip. However there is no practical alternative to booking through those methods so in reality it is a hidden charge. There are plans afoot to test these in the courts, but for the meantime, check the small print very carefully.
As we have seen, there are many ways to get cheap international flights and a few pitfalls to avoid. As long as you can be flexible about the exact destination and departure time there are still bargains to be enjoyed.
More information on how to find cheap flights.