The point of creating my flight booking process was to have a repeatable process for finding the best prices and it works. Very few people I know still use travel agencies nowadays, booking flights themselves on the Internet as it’s normally cheaper by-passing agency commissions. It’s quicker and more flexible as you can simulate several scenarios without leaving the comfort of your home. If you’re booking several segments using different airlines, it can get complicated.
Who Fly Where?
First I try to figure out which airlines fly to my desired destinations and the average price I’m expected to pay. Great sites to check this information are Skyscanner and momondo. They search for all flights and prices and you can play with the filters to get more specific results. You can click through a result to actually make a booking and will be redirected to an online agency to fill in your info. The final price will include a commission.
My method is to determine who fly where and most of the times I go directly to the airline company website and check their prices and conditions.
A good practice is to try several scenarios including multi-city flights. I’ve used this method successfully several times. You book them in one go using the Multi-City option. Here is an example of my multi-city booking:
- Segment 1: From Lisbon, Portugal to Quito, Ecuador; Segment 2: From Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lisbon, Portugal;
This works great when you want to start at one place, travel around and fly back from a different place from where you started. It can be cheaper as they calculate an average that sometimes is lower than if you book individual segments.
My Flight Booking Process vs LAN Part I
Believe it or not, sometimes a return flight can be cheaper than a one-way flight. I was flying one way between Santiago in Chile to Montevideo in Uruguay and after testing a few scenarios on LAN’s website, I found a cheaper return fare than all the one-way fares I had seen, although I didn’t need to return to Buenos Aires. I completed the return booking, made the first leg of the journey to Montevideo and when I got there, I canceled my return trip at a LAN office. They even thanked me for alerting them to my change of plans, obviously happy to re-sell my seat. My flight booking process beats the LAN system once.
One important note on this tip: it only works if you use the first segment of the return trip. If you intend to only use the return flight, they will cancel your ticket after the no-show on the fist leg.
Local versus Global Booking Websites
I was in South America and needed to book a flight on LAN’s website. After going through the booking process where I found a great price, the site informed me that the price was only available for residents. Foreigners had to book on the global website where the flights were much more expensive. This really annoyed me so I decided to put the system to the test.
My Flight Booking Process vs LAN Part II
The plan was to fly between Buenos Aires and Puerto Iguazú on LAN. I went through the booking process on the Argentinian website knowing that the cheaper price I was offered was for residents only, but I decided to complete the flight booking and take the risk.
Arriving at the airport, I didn’t check-in any luggage, going straight to the boarding gate. The boarding crew doesn’t control the fares at the boarding gate system, either because they don’t have access to the information or they’re just focused on getting passengers on board. I showed my passport and boarded the plane each way without any issue. My flight booking process beat the Lan system twice.
My Flight Booking Process
- I first find out which airlines fly to my desired destination. For this I use Skyscanner and momondo. I normally filter for a maximum of one stop. This gives me the expected price;
- After finding out the airlines, I check the prices directly on the airline sites;
- Comparing the prices between airlines is the next step;
- If my dates are flexible, I play around them to find a better price as sometimes a day sooner or later makes an interesting price difference;
- To get a total view of the prices, I check multi-city, one way or return flights;
- I normally pick flights that get me to my destination at daylight, avoiding late arrivals. This gives me time to find a hotel or explore the area and prepare the next day;
- I avoid very early flights if I can as a flight at 5am creates several logistic problems:
Cheats for Cheaper Flights
After making a lot of online bookings, you will start to pick up a few tricks. My experience showed me a few tricks I add to my flight booking process.
Expedia.ie sometimes gives me better prices than Expedia.com. Don’t know why, but trying different country websites can get you better results. The same happened with Airchina.es versus Airchina.com.
Another trick is the day you check for prices, as some people say that on late hours of a Tuesday, flights seem to be cheaper. There are theories on this, although I think it’s not really scientific and can be different for each flight or company.
A more technical trick relates to browser navigation and cookies. Every time you go to a website they will put a cookie on your computer. This cookie is a file with info on you to make each session on the website easier. This is where they get the information to automatically fill in your departure and destination city the next time you go to the site. This also means they know what prices you’ve been looking at, so delete the cookies from your computer or navigate anonymously (privacy mode or incognito mode). The next time you check for a price, the system will give you fresh prices. Just Google “delete cookies” or “privacy mode” and follow a few easy steps.