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Five secrets to booking cheap airline tickets

The choice of low-cost domestic flights in South Africa has made air travel affordable to almost anyone. However, that doesn't mean that we are willing to pay whatever the airline is offering when we want to book.
Five secrets to booking cheap airline tickets

Here are five sure-fire ways to make sure you get the cheapest flight ticket and therefore more spending money for your trip:

1. Plan ahead

If you want a good deal on domestic flights, then the best time to start searching for cheap flight tickets is between three months and four weeks ahead of the day you want to travel.

Researchers say the sweet spot for cheap flights is seven weeks in advance. Airlines would love people to fill planes as quickly as possible, but this rarely happens. As a result, the cheap seats are offered early on because they know that there will be greater demand as the departure date draws nearer. Anything later than a month in advance is likely to yield much higher prices.

2. Sign up for email alerts

No one likes to be spammed with emails but if it’s cheap flights you’re after, signing up to email alerts is one of the best ways to hear about great deals coming up. FlySAA, for example sends subscribers a newsletter and alerts about pre-selected domestic and international routes and destinations that customers can choose from based on their travel preferences. They can then sign up to be the first to hear about upcoming flight specials for that particular route.

3. Make use of rewards systems

Many of the SA airlines offer rewards for being frequent flyers. If a reward system is offered, be sure to sign up and make use of it. You can then use your SAA Voyager miles to discount on the more affordable routes for example, with cheap flights from Durban to Johannesburg, and to help lower South African Airways flight costs on the more expensive routes.

4. Choose your days carefully

Understandably, flights over the weekend are often the most expensive, particularly on a Friday and a Sunday. If you’ve somehow missed the four-week window of cheap seats then consider the fact that flights early on in the week are often much cheaper. So, if it doesn’t make much of a difference to you, whether you leave a day or two earlier or after the weekend, your flight will cost much less.

If you do need to fly over a weekend, then Saturday afternoon or evening is your best bet for a cheaper seat. If you really need to fly out on a Friday, not surprisingly, often seats on a Friday the 13th are cheaper than usual, as are the later flights out of peak business hours.

5. Consider other airports for departures and landing

Flights from Durban to Lanseria Airport are cheaper than those landing at OR Tambo. Smaller airports might not be as conveniently located, but ticket prices are often significantly cheaper enough to warrant the extra transport costs. Be sure to consider all airport options for both trips. While the shopping at these airports might not be as good, the coffee counter and boarding queues are often significantly shorter than at major airports.

And finally, what won’t help you get a cheap flight

There are lots of theories that your online behaviour can determine the flight ticket prices that you are shown by hiking prices for routes you’ve already searched to create a sense of urgency. The theory is that opening an “incognito” window to search flights will block this from happening. Sadly, this has been debunked, and it’s far more likely that prices are actually fluctuating at that rate, particularly if you are booking close to your departure date.

If you want a lifetime of cheap flights then consider a career as a pilot, South Africa is desperately short of them!

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5 Dec 2017 11:59