Air Travel

6 ways to get the best value for money on airfares

Travelling long haul on a budget doesn't have to cost you hours of extra time and effort!

Travelling long haul on a budget doesn’t have to cost you hours of extra time and effort!

You probably love something that’s “value for money” as much as the next person – but what’s your definition of value for money? What’s your friend’s definition? We all have different perceptions of what’s value for money and what’s not; sometimes the cheapest airfare on the market may not actually provide you with any benefit at all. Here are my top six ways to get the best value for money on your airfare!

1 – Knowing where and when to find the bargains

Following your preferred airline or travel agent for their sales window can save you lots. Subscribe to their campaign emails and you will soon notice a particular pattern that may suit your needs. Virgin Australia offers “Happy Hour” sales on selected Thursdays; Jetstar holds their yearly “Birthday Sale” where in some cases you can book your return flight for free. Flight Centre facilitates “Travel Expo” about three times a year in capital and selected regional Australian cities, and online booking sites offer small discounts off fares periodically. Even when not looking to book any travel, it’s still worth keeping an eye on sale prices to your bucket list destinations to set realistic expectations on price for when the time comes to book.

2 – Search with purpose; what’s the plan?

Heading off on the dream Euro trip, or the quick getaway for a few days? Don’t just plot in random dates and go wild – search your airfares around your intentions. No matter what the purpose of your trip is, planning your flights with specific time frames in mind is pivotal to finding the option that suits your needs otherwise it’s wasting yours and your travel agent’s time. For example, if you plan to join a group tour on the day of departure and the introduction meeting is at 6pm; there’s no use comparing airlines who arrive late in the afternoon or evening no matter how reasonably priced they are.

Airline Calendar, ITX Matrix
Don’t be a time waster, search realistic dates that line up with your schedule

3 – Picking the transit city that’s right for you

If your home city isn’t well connected to your destination, you will need to transit somewhere. Always take each option on its own merits as no two transits are the same. If a longer transit (six or more hours) is required at world-leading Singapore Changi, you can amuse yourself in many of its own airport attractions, or even have a quick opportunity to pop into the city for lunch or dinner. Compare this to Beijing, where processing times are quite slow and the airport is a long distance from the city centre. The airport is good, but nothing outstanding. Two world-class cities with busy airports, yet two vastly different experiences for those stuck with a long transit. If you’re unsure of what to expect from a potential airport experience, there are multiple review sites online such as Skytrax with regular reviews of the world’s more popular airports.

4 – Decide if you’re stopping over

I hear you asking “wait one second what’s the difference between transit and stopover?” – transits are transfers from one flight to another inside a 24 hour period. Stopovers are you literally stopping, in a city for 24 hours or more.

If you’re travelling from one side of the world to another you may feel inclined to stopover somewhere to discover a new city in depth, or simply take a mini holiday within a holiday on the way home. If you’re travelling an incredibly long distance; let’s use Sydney to London and would like to stopover, it pays to research which airlines can take you to which stops. Choosing Emirates allows you to stop in their hub megacity of Dubai; Qantas can take you via Perth or Singapore; Qatar Airways via Doha and I can go on for hours with examples.

Airplane Flight Paths

The choice of airlines and routes between Sydney and London are near endless…these are only a fraction of possible routing options!

5 – Budget versus full-service airlines

Considering flying a budget airline like Jetstar instead of a full-service carrier like Hawaiian Airlines for a tropical getaway? That’s a great way to save cash to spend at your destination on shopping and dining, but if you’re one who prefers inclusions like meals, baggage, seats and drinks; you’ll be forking out more money time and again on a budget carrier. Keep an eye out in the near future as I will explore these key differences in detail.

6 – Bringing it all together; price versus convenience

This point is wrapping the first five points into a neat little package. The rock bottom airfare may see you taking twice as long to get to your destination. Consider where you are transiting or stopping, but most importantly which airline will get you to where you need to be when you need to be? If you’re one who values that little more knee room or prefers the “full service” that low-cost carriers don’t include then you will need to accept that your price expectations need to be set higher than their flashy sale prices.

Let’s put this into practice!

The options for my recent Jordan trip were overwhelming. There were plenty of Middle Eastern, Asian and even European airlines offering airfares between Brisbane and Amman. Let’s use some examples of how I would consider the same trip again, today. For simplicity, I have not set a budget for my airfare – I just want the best value flights.

Scenario – I need to be at my Amman hotel by 6pm on 10 April for my tour welcome meeting. For my two week stay, I’m trying to find the most competitive airfare. No airlines fly Brisbane to Amman non-stop; meaning transits are required. As long as I get to my destination reasonably quickly I don’t mind which route I take.

The cheapest fare is found with Oman Air, at $1,716. However the arrival time is too late to get to my meeting on time unless I arrive a day earlier, and it takes nearly two days to get home. This extra time means I will need to source extra accommodation and meals; therefore this option will ultimately become more expensive than competitor airline options.

ITX Matrix Flight Options
Oman Air has the cheapest airfare, but requires overnight stops which adds to my total trip price.

Next best (that’s not three stops!) is Qatar Airways at $1,894. Qatar does not currently fly to Brisbane, so two stops are required to make my way to Amman. It’s slightly inconvenient but the total overall travel time and schedule meet my needs. Let’s put this on the shortlist.

ITX Flight Options B
Qatar Airways aren’t that much more than Oman Air, however there are still two stops on this itinerary.

The last airline I would consider here is the cheapest one-stop option, with Etihad. This is the most expensive of the three realistic choices at $2,188. However, this will get me to Amman the fastest with a one-stop connection. Let’s add this to the shortlist alongside Qatar Airways.

Flight Options C

Who would you choose? Let me know by commenting below!

Which of the these options did I decide?

When faced with this exact conundrum in real life (with cheaper airfares at the time!) I chose the Qatar Airways option. Despite the two stops, the money I saved on the airfare meant I had more to spend in Jordan, even after trading off a couple of extra hours in transit. Qatar Airways offers world-class service, their home of Hamad International Airport in Doha is fantastic to explore at any time of day and for what it’s worth, my long legs could do with the extra stretch on such a long journey.

Airbus A380
Boarding the humongous double decker Airbus A380 at Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar

In conclusion…

The definition of “value” will vary from one person to the next. The cheapest airfare on the market may not suit your circumstances; whereas the little extra for the airfare upfront can shave hours off your total travel time and provide greater comfort. Shop around, have a chat with your local travel agent and make sure you are getting your journey started off on the right foot.

Feature photo taken on the descent into Amman, Jordan onboard a
Royal Jordanian Boeing 787-800; part of my Qatar Airways ticket from Brisbane, Australia

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