When it comes to planning a trip, there are many theories about how to get the best deal on flights. Some think it is better to book early, others to book late and then there’s the question of which website to use to find the cheapest prices - or whether to go online at all. UNIGLOBE Experts share the “inside” story about airfares and expose some common myths to help you with YOUR research on airfares.

MYTH #1: Booking a last minute flight is the best way to get hold of cheap tickets.

“Last minute” savings can be found as airlines do occasionally put last minute, unsold inventory on the market. But it’s more rare than people think and not really good for finding consistent savings. In fact, the data shows exactly the opposite is true - fares generally go up closer to departure. So if you can plan and purchase early,  booking in advance will save more money.

“You are more likely to secure greater savings by booking domestic flights 21 days or more out from departure date. For international flights, aim to book at least two months in advance to get the best fares. It is also worth noting that the day of the week and time of day can even impact  the fare you pay as inventory and pricing is dynamic and can change multiple times before that flight departs ” advises a UNIGLOBE Expert. “That’s why we use technology that scans inventory and prices 24 hours a day before and after a purchase is made to increase the potential for finding the real “best fare”!

MYTH #2: Finding lowest fare will mean the lowest overall cost for the trip

The actual cost of a flight is the total of all flight “related” costs.  First you have the “base fare” to which is added various taxes and fees. Airlines also occasionally add fuel surcharges to compensate for the fluctuation of fuel prices.

On top of this, all fares are sold with a set of “rules” or conditions related to the sale. However, not all fares have exactly the same conditions and this impacts both the price and availability of certain fares.

These rules are primarily to address the different needs of the business traveller (e.g. access to a seat at the last minute at “any cost” if it means closing a big deal somewhere) vs the leisure traveller (e.g. the lowest fare for a non-stop flight).

Typical fare conditions include things like the inclusion of a baggage allowance, the ability to change or modify a flight booking or whether any meals are included. Some airlines also charge extra for food selection or checked-in baggage. Your travel expert can help you through this minefield of “ancillary” costs that ultimately determine the lowest TRIP cost (vs just the lowest fare which MAY not lead to the lowest overall trip cost!) .

MYTH #3: Everyone on the plane, in the same cabin class, should pay  the same price for their seat.

Like all products, price is a function of supply and demand. As the aircraft fills up – indicating demand -  the base prices climb higher as the inventory shrinks.

Airline seats are perishable commodity. Once the flight departs there is no value on that seat to the airline so their goal is to sell every seat on every flight at the highest possible price.

When a flight is scheduled and enters the market for sale, seats on that flight are divided into fare “buckets” with a particular price and airfare rules attached. The lowest  fare buckets are always the ones that have the most restrictions and penalties attached which essentially helps to compensate the airline for the low price. For the airlines it means less risk of revenue loss through cancellation or changes as the ‘penalties” make up for the potential loss. These fares usually sell first until that assigned inventory is depleted and only the next highest priced “bucket” of inventory is offered and so forth until all the inventory on the flight is sold.

A UNIGLOBE expert explains the rational of last minute deals, “sometimes the airline buckets don't sell as quickly as the airline had anticipated so they add in a lower fare bucket or a sale fare to entice more sales – hence last minute sales. Conversely, if the seats are selling quickly or it’s a popular time of day or year to be flying, the airline may shift the inventory to  higher fare buckets. These can change minute by minute as bookings are made.”Consumers have experienced this challenge when finding a “great fare” online somewhere, but then not being able to book it even just a few minutes later. That’s why the UNIGLOBE online flight search tool only shows fares that are actually bookable so people don’t feel frustrated that the fare isn’t actually available!”

MYTH #4: It doesn’t matter how far in advance you book your airfare.

Airlines generally  make airfares available for booking 10-12 months out from departure. This means you can book a flight 10-12 months in advance of your departure date which often  coincides with the release of the airlines “earlybird” deals on ALL fare buckets (including business and first class) when the flight is first launched to the market. So for those who like to plan in advance, you can pounce on a great deal if you forward-plan. However, we recommend people talk to their  travel professional to understand the “fine print” before making any purchase – if the deal looks too good to be true…there will be more to the story.

MYTH #5: Booking online is the best way to ensure you’re getting the cheapest price.

“Online” really means purchasing from a website and all websites are either a) owned by the supplier of the products on the site (e.g.airlines) or b) owned by a travel agency. So the real question is ‘who is behind the site” as not all sites carry all the inventory and all the pricing available. You can’t go to one airline and find prices for their competitors and not all agencies show all the inventory that is available on THEIR websites either. Add to this the information above (fares and inventory shuffle endlessly) and it becomes obvious that getting hold of the actual “best fare” is really tricky.

Bottom line:  Unless you have unlimited time and the right technology for multi-channel, simultaneous searching, you cannot entirely depend on a single way to get your hands on the best available deals. It is a combination of advance planning and  access to expert, technically advanced purchasing support that gives you a buyers advantage. This is why modern day Travel Management Companies, like UNIGLOBE Travel continue to offer great value to travel buyers – expert travel consultants along with access to cutting edge search tools like UNIGLOBE Complete Access Online). Such tools provide advanced fare sourcing from channels like the Global Distribution System( GDS – the “agent-only” channel) , low cost airlines websites and private fare databases (e.g. contract based corporate fares)  in a single click to bring you the best possible options all at the same time.

AS you can see, true travel experts have access to everything you can see online, plus more. They provide access to the “best of both worlds” -online research as well as travel experts to increase your chance of getting the true “best fare” when you are ready to buy.

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