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Your guide to a great travel deal

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The greatest thing to hit our skies since the glorious Skywhale are the Singapore Airlines direct flights connecting Canberra to the world.

There really has never been a better time for Canberrans to travel, new direct services, cheap fuel creating cheap airfares. Now I know that Canberrans are savvy shoppers always looking for great value so this guide will put you, the consumer in the best position to hunt down and grab that deal when you see it. Because let’s face it, we all want a bargain.

The Earlybird Gets The Worm

When it comes to buying flights, this saying generally rings true. Airlines release airfares for sale around 11 months in advance and when they do so they release a range of fares into the market and sell them on a first come, first serve basis.

So for example when you are looking at travelling on the new Singapore airlines flight from Canberra the economy airfares will be broken down into price brackets. They will have a handful of seats to sell to passengers in each price bracket. The cheapest fares of course sell first and as each price bracket sells out the current available price jumps up to the next one in the range of fares. This continues until all the seats are sold.

So you can see that if you come into the picture too late you will end up purchasing a higher airfare and let me tell you now that the last few seats on a plane which are sold at a fare called “full economy” are very very expensive.

There is an exception to every rule of course and within this structure airlines can pull fares, change fares and release extra seats at lower prices at any time they choose. It is all controlled by them to ensure maximum capacity and maximum profits.

In saying that booking as early as possible is the most reliable way to ensure a good deal.

Seasonality Saves Money

Most airfares are broken up into different price levels based on what time of year you are going to travel. This is called seasonality. If you want to travel to a destination when it is at it’s peak weather wise, guess what, so does everyone else. This means the airlines can charge you more to travel at that time of year. Simple supply and demand. Annoying? It sure can be but if you are willing to play the game and travel in the off peak times you can access some amazing deals.

Europe is a great example of this. Current off-peak airfares to Europe are as low as $999 return including taxes. You will never see a fare like that to travel during the summer months.

Don’t Hesitate

If you see an airfare you are happy with don’t hesitate just buy it. When airlines release a discounted airfare they often only release a handful of seats and they can be snapped up within hours and sometimes minutes. Ever wondered why you see advertising for a super airfare and when you go to buy yours you are told there is “no availability” this is because they have already sold to a shopper with faster feet than you.

Cheap and Value Are Two Different Things

Buying a cheap airfare and getting value from your holiday are worlds apart. Often the cheapest airfares on the market are with airlines you would not want to fly for so many reasons, safety being one of them. They can also be what the industry has dubbed “the milk run”. Fancy having five stops on the way to London? Me neither.

What you want to look for is a well priced airfare on a reputable airline with a good route to your destination with good connections.

Watch those layover times, you can easily turn what should be a 22 hour route into a 40 hour route if you don’t book connecting services.

Hidden Costs Behind The Advertising

This aspect of booking travel, particularly online, is slowly improving with legislation forcing advertisers to advertise complete costs. Be aware though low cost carriers have a penchant for making absolutely everything an added extra. Basic advertised airfares with low cost carriers don’t include any baggage, meals or seat selection so be careful, you don’t want to end up travelling with just the clothes on your back.

Take Advantage Of Premium Seat Selection

If you are like me and cannot stand being hemmed in on all sides in a seat designed for twiggy yet can’t afford to fly business class then the introduction of premium seat selection in the economy cabin is going to be your best friend. It does seem of late that all airlines are heading this way, some have allocated their exit rows as premium seating that you can purchase at a cost to get the leg room they come with.

Some airlines are actually building sections of extra leg room seats into their new aircraft. Don’t confuse these with premium economy seats, those seats are in their own dedicated cabin on the aircraft and are quite a bit more expensive. The premium seat selections can only be made once you have already purchased a standard economy ticket and the seats are only minimally better than an economy seat but every little bit counts in my opinion.

United Airlines were recently selling their extra legroom seats all the way to the States for only an additional $130 each way and you can secure an exit row on Singapore airlines for between $30-$60 depending on the length of flight.

Keep Informed

My last piece of advice is that an informed consumer is a savvy consumer. Get on airline mailing lists, sign up for websites like Skyscanner and generally keep an eye on the market. With the power that comes with knowledge you will know when it is a good time to buy.

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