Summer holiday season is approaching and airfare war has also begun. We keep seeing news headlines stating low airfare starting in the range of Rs 1500 or less and will be tempted to take a quick holiday because of low fares. But in our excitement, we tend to ignore several aspects what result in a compromised holiday experience or money lost elsewhere. Read this post to find out all the things that need to be kept in mind while trying to book a low fare ticket.
1 Cheapest advertised fare won't take you to your dream destination. The cheapest amount (such as Rs 1499, 1178 etc) that newspapers and advertisements use in their headlines are usually for short haul flights-such as Chennai-Bengaluru or Mumbai-Goa etc that can be reached by overnight bus/train. If you thought you will fly long distance like Chennai Delhi or Bengaluru-Kolkata etc at that rate, you will be in for a disappointment. Considering air ticket cost, cost airport transportation, onboard food cost etc, it might still be convenient and cheaper to take an overnight train/bus to short distances than a flight. In a bus/train you can sleep off once you’re in. On a flight there will be several processes to follow (check in, security check, wait for boarding, board, take off, land, collect bag etc etc. You will not be able to enjoy a proper sleep. If you consider end to end time and money spent, the difference won’t be much.
2 Hidden conditions such as "No cancellation", "No rescheduling"- with these terms, there is a risk that you will lose all your money in case your plans change (can't get leave, some other emergency etc). So check for such restrictions and if they apply, ensure that you have near 0% risk of having to change your plans.
3. Cheapest prices are only for few seats on every flight. Out of say 300 seats in a flight, the lowest rate is probably offered on less than 5% of the seats. Unless you're super quick to act once the sale launches, you will waste your time hoping to get that lowest rate. If you’re getting started after reading a newspaper article, in most of the cases it will be late. Most of the cheap seats will be gone.
4. Return ticket is difficult to get for similar discount fares. From my experience what I have observed usually one way flight is heavily discounted, but return tickets are priced normally for dates surrounding the cheap onward journey. This tricks people to pay more overall, though they feel they got cheap ticket. (it’s not that you’ll never find good deals on return tickets, but you will need fair amount of luck and flexibility in dates to lock a good deal.) Airline call centres won’t help in this regard- you can’t ask them, “on what date can I fly for Rs 1500?”.. Only if you give a date they can tell the fare.
5 Mid-day flights are total waste of a productive day. Even though cheaper, mid-day flights result in loss of a full productive day. Example, if your flight is at 1PM and will land at say 4PM, you may have to leave home by 9-9.30 AM, reach airport by 11 AM, you’ll reach your destination city hotel by probably 6PM. A whole day is lost which could otherwise be spent either in site seeing at destination or working at office & earning salary. So though cheaper, loss of one full day means you need to factor time value of money that is lost in the process. Unless you’ve lots of time at your disposal or it is an international flight where time options are limited, morning/evening flights that give us at least half a day to spare are preferred.
6 Flight is only a part of overall trip cost. Flight expense could make almost around 50% of total trip expense sometimes (depends on many factors). Still there’s money to be spent on stay, transportation and many other aspects. Unless you are sure you’ll have decent deals in all other departments, buying a plane ticket in a hurry and bleeding money in other expenses will be big mistake.
7. The definition of all inclusive can be tricky: Check if all applicable taxes are covered, check if there’s any extra charge for check in baggage etc. Charging extra for baggage is the new trick for many airlines. By charging several thousands per kg, sometimes your baggage costs as much as a ticket fare on a full service airline. Most websites charge a few hundred as convenience fee for credit card payment, automatically include some insurance or charity amount in your ticket.
8 Where possible try to get a hold PIN. Some airlines give a provision where you will be offered a fare, which is locked for you for next 24 hours. You don’t have to pay upfront and can take upto 24 hours to validate if all aspects are making sense and then pay and book. Where possible avail this feature, instead of paying full amount instantly. (You will have to call the airline helpline for this service)
9 Buying tickets in hurry for your buddies could prove to be expensive. Sometimes you spot a deal and check with your friends if they’d like to join. They might tentatively confirm and ask you to go ahead and book. Now if you’re increasing no of passengers and booking for them also there’re some factors you need to keep in mind.
- Increasing passenger count might put you in next slab. Assume there’s only 1 seat left for Rs 2000 and next 10 seats are priced at Rs 3000. If you select 2 adults, both your seats might be charged at Rs 3000. So be careful on the numbers. Book separate if you see a price difference.
- Paying for your friend without his/her 100% confirmation might put you in trouble if he/she changes mind later. Partial cancellations/modifications may not be allowed. Unless you know your buddies well, it might help ask them to book their tickets themselves. It gives lots of flexibility that way.
10 It is advisable to go little early to airport. Airlines often tend to overbook by a limit, expecting that some passengers will not turn up. This overbooking could be high when tickets are sold on No cancellation, No modification policy. So if you’ve bought a ticket on a discount sale, it might help to go to airport a little early and check-in. In case of overbooking which results in a scenario where there’re more passengers than no of seats, some of the passengers who arrive late (though within stipulated time) will be subjected to some inconvenience- usually on next flight or refund etc.
Have nice vacation!
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