How to Book Cheap Flights
Welcome to the taste2travel ‘How to Book Cheap Flights’ guide!
Date: June 2019
How to Book Cheap Flights explains how you can find and book a bargain airfare, a simple, straightforward process, made easy thanks to a few useful websites.
One of my favourite websites for bagging a bargain airfare is Secret Flying. If you’re flexible with your travel plans or just want to view a list of deals, Secret Flying features regularly updated lists of deeply discounted and error fares.
What’s an error fare? An error fare is when an airline accidentally lists a pricing mistake, thereby offering tickets significantly cheaper than intended. The trick to securing an error fare is to be quick and book the flight before the airline realises their mistake.
Why do error fares occur? Error fares happen for various reasons such as the dumping of the (very expensive) fuel surcharge fee, human error, computer error or even mistakes due to currency conversions.
You can view current deals based on geographical region (most of them are in North America) and subscribe to receive a daily email which will list the latest bargains. Handy links are included in each deal which will take you directly to the discounted airfares which you can then book.
Finding a Cheap Flight
Wikipedia Airport Guides
Not all airlines are included in search results, especially low-cost carriers. Before conducting a search for flights, it’s best to gain an understanding of which airlines serve your destination.
To do this you should perform a Google search on your destination airport. At the top of the search results, you’ll find a Wikipedia page for that airport.
On the Wikipedia page, you’ll find a list of all airlines (see the following image) currently flying to/ from the specified airport. In this example, I have searched on Tahiti International Airport, officially known as Fa’a’ā International Airport.
Once you have a list of all airlines, you can then search for flights using regular Online Travel Agent (OTA’s) websites such as Expedia, Skyscanner etc and, if certain airlines are omitted from the results, you can check their websites manually.
As an example – I once searched for an airfare to Tahiti from the United States. Normally flights to this South Pacific paradise are very expensive and the regular search results were not encouraging.
However, a quick look at the Tahiti International Airport page on Wikipedia showed a French discount carrier, French Bee, flew to Tahiti, from Paris via San Francisco, three times a week. It didn’t appear in any of the search results!
I then checked their website manually (also clickable from the Wiki page) and found an airfare for a third of the price of the other regular carriers. I booked a one-way ticket from San Francisco to French Polynesia (click to read my report) for US$350! Most other carriers were charging around US$1000.
My go-to sight for searching out bargain airfares is the ITA Matrix, which is a Google website. You can search for One-way, Return or Multi-City airfares by either specifying a specific travel date or electing to view a monthly calendar view of airfares.
Search results are displayed on a calendar view, which highlights the cheapest available airfare on each given day, with the cheapest monthly fare easily identifiable in red.
Clicking on any of the days will allow you to view all available fares for that date. The following screenshot shows the results from the 6th of July, one of three days in the month offering the best value.
The results from the 6th of July show the low-cost (Belgium) carrier, Tui Fly, are offering a direct flight (8h 55m) for US$174, just a quarter of the cost of the next cheapest offer from Aeroflot, whose indirect flight (22h 30m) leaves you sitting around Moscow airport for hours. I have flown on this flight before at the same price – a great value connection between Miami and Europe.
To view the itinerary for the Tui Fly flight, you simply click on the Price button next to the fare, in this case – US$174.
At the bottom of the itinerary is the fare construction code for the ticket, which is needed to book the ticket. The only thing you cannot do on the ITA Matrix is actually book a ticket.
ITA Matrix Advanced Controls
The real power of the ITA Matrix comes from the many ‘Advanced Control‘ options which allow you to refine your search in a variety of ways. If you wish to travel on a certain airline, via a certain city etc, you can specify it all using the advanced functions.
If you wish to fully understand all of the controls and features of the ITA Matrix, upgradedpoints.com offers a comprehensive tutorial which will allow you to become an ITA Matrix guru.
Booking a Ticket
Book With Matrix
Once you’re ready to book a ticket, you’ll need to find an OTA which can convert the code generated from the ITA Matrix. Unfortunately, not many sites can do this!
The site I use, and recommend, is Book with Matrix which isn’t an Online Travel Agent but an interface between the ITA Matrix and various OTA’s. Book With Matrix allows you to copy and paste the itinerary generated from the ITA Matrix into a window at the top of the website.
The site then converts the booking code, passing it to various OTA’s, from where you can book your bargain fare.
In this example, I selected Priceline.com as my OTA of choice. The following screenshot shows you the final step in the process where you get to purchase your bargain ticket.
Book With Matrix Utility
If you’re going to be a regular user of the ITA Matrix and Book With Matrix, it’s worth downloading the useful utility from Book With Matrix, which installs a ‘booking button’ on your internet search bar.
From the ITA Matrix Itinerary screen, you simply click the booking button to initiate an automated process which converts the ITA Matrix fare code, then displays the OTA’s from which you can book your ticket.
All automated, and done in seconds!
Once purchased, your bargain ticket will be emailed to you and you’re on your way!
If you have any questions regarding this topic, please contact me via the ‘Contact’ page. If you think this would be helpful to others, feel free to share it using any of the buttons below.
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Author: Darren McLean
A perpetual traveller, photographer, travel writer and owner of taste2travel, a website which aims to inspire wanderlust.