Tuesday 16 July 2024 21:27:52 PHT

Tips for getting cheap airline tickets

IJsselstein, Tuesday, 11 January 2005 (updated: Monday, 9 May 2011)

The biggest single post on your budget going to Bohol (especially if you come from abroad), is your airline ticket. Since the airline ticket market is very dynamic, we cannot publish schedules or fares on this site, but we can help you finding a good deal with some tips.

Buying airline tickets for a low price is a kind of art, and often confuses people a lot. If you ask around during a flight you will probably not find two passengers who paid the same fare for the same type of seat. In fact, some passengers might have paid ten times as much as others, for the same few centimeters of leg-space. To get the lowest fares, you will have to know how the business works.


Airlines sell seats, and want to sell them at the highest price possible. They don't like to fly empty seats, as they cost them money. They publish official (IATA) airfares, often more than a year ahead, but these are so high that only very few people actually pay them: often business travelers who are fully reimbursed by their companies, and thus lack any incentive to search for cheaper alternatives, and people with an urgent need to travel at the last moment.

At the IATA fares, very few airplanes would fill-up, so airlines also offer discounted fares. Airlines actually employ specialists who try to calculate, given market conditions, when to offer seats for a certain price. As a result, you may be able to buy an expensive ticket on a certain flight, but get "not available" if you try to book the same flight with a lower fare. People waiting for such a low fare will quickly consume those seats after they become available, after which again only higher fares can be booked. A few weeks later, depending on bookings, cheaper seats may be offered again. Trying to get a low fare is very much like trying to buy cheap on the stock exchange.

Here are some tips to help you get a lower fare.

1. Be flexible.

If you can leave a few days earlier or later, you can often save considerably, as cheaper tickets may still be available on a less popular day than your preferred day. Avoid the days most business people like to travel. Flying in on Wednesdays or Thursdays can be much cheaper than on Fridays and Mondays; flying home is often cheaper on Tuesday and Wednesday. This is true both on-line and when dealing with a traditional agent. Staying out of the high seasons can also save you considerably, so ask agents when high (and so called shoulder) seasons start and end, and start working backwards from those dates, if need to book near the high season (Your departure date normally determines your fare).

Alternatively, you can have considerable price differences between various airports, so if you can choose between two airports for destination or departure, you can make considerable savings as well. When flying to the Philippines, going directly to Cebu is normally somewhat more expensive than flying to Manila.

Finally, people don't like stop-overs, so flights having some stop-overs might actually be cheaper than more convenient direct flights.

The lowest fares can be had if you're willing to take the risk of not flying at all, or a few days later, and can be stand-by for any seat available on 24 hour notice -- but be aware that although this too is sometimes called "last minute" you sometimes have to register for that option a few months beforehand.

Booking with an agent or web-site aimed at your own region or country is normally cheaper than trying to book a flight on a web-site operating at the other end of the globe. Specialized agents for your destination may be able to get better deals than non-specialized agents.

On the other hand, booking with a flag-carrier airline in its home country can sometimes be a bit more expensive (some people are willing to pay a little more for flying with their national carrier and being able to speak their own language on-board.)

2. Plan Ahead.

Since business travelers often have to change their itinerary at the last moment, and like to be at home for the weekends, "last minute" tickets, and those not including at least one Saturday are much more expensive than those booked long beforehand or including Saturdays. In a few cases, even a "one way" flight can cost more than a full round trip! You normally can plan a holiday trip much longer beforehand, and thus get cheaper tickets, so don't wait too long.

3. Know your price.

Don't buy uninformed. If you monitor the prices of tickets on your route for some time, you will quickly learn what is the bottom price for that route. Those are often those fares published but never seem to be available when you try to book them. This activity is also known as bench-marking.

The current bottom rate on the Amsterdam-Manila route is about 750 euros, and on Amsterdam-Cebu, 850. For stand-by tickets Amsterdam-Manila, you may be able to get them even lower. I don't have an idea on other routes, as I never used them. For departure in the summer season, booking mid January, when most people start planning their summer holidays appears to be best. If you really need to be in the Philippines during the Christmas season, you may even want to book before the summer holidays.

4. Be aware of hidden costs.

Ticket prices are often published without additional fees, such as airport taxes, terminal fees, ticketing fees, security surcharges, fuel surcharges, and so on, which can increase your cost with 10 to 20 percent (Luckily, this practice has now been forbidden in the EU). Know these before booking to avoid a nasty surprise. The better on-line booking websites will calculate those fees. When booking for a baby, those fees can be more than the actual airfare. In a few cases, you cannot know all fees beforehand, as governments can increase fees without any prior notice.

The cheaper the ticket, the bigger the restrictions. These restrictions can cost you dearly if you don't take them into account. The cheapest tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable once tickets have been printed. Take out an insurance against cancellation costs if you don't feel comfortable with that (and normally that insurance is much cheaper if you buy it separately, not when making your booking). Sometimes, the cheapest fares are only available if you travel with two or more people.

Booking a flight from you home country the other way round (the official term is PTA, prepaid ticket advice), can be much more expensive. You use a PTA, for example, when you book a ticket in Europe for somebody flying to Europe from the Philippines. It may be cheaper to let that person book (and pay) the ticket in the Philippines, or directly phone or email an agent in the Philippines (although they will be reluctant to accept credit cards by phone, and transferring money through the bank system is sometimes slow and requires considerable trust).

5. Observe offerings.

As said above, once in a while, airline companies will make a couple of seats available at or near that bottom price. Be especially alert on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when airlines often revise their offerings.

Just monitor the offerings (the on-line sites can be a great help in this) until they become available, and realize that most "brick and mortar" agents will be able to match such offers, but are often more flexible in getting you on board.

It may also help to register with the various airline newsletters, which can contain interesting offerings.

6. Act quickly.

Once you notice a rock-bottom fare available, and can live with its restrictions, it may be time to act quickly, as the number of such cheap seats may be limited. So if you feel you've found the right price, book it.

7. Don't moan.

This tip will not save you money, but it will save your holiday spirit. Once you've booked, you may come across a yet cheaper offer the next day. Don't let it spoil your mood: you were happy when you made the deal, and you did your homework, right? Just remember for the next time that you had not reached the bottom yet, and enjoy your trip! Buying tickets remains an art.


In this section, we will try to link to a few interesting sites for each country. Since we live in the Netherlands, we only have personal experience with Dutch agents. We are looking for recommendations for travelers from other countries.


More travel tips and ideas for saving money can be found on SmarterTravel.com.

International air-ticket sites are Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz.

Departing from Netherlands

Vliegtarieven.nl - (Dutch language) Comprehensive ticket website, able to show flight availability and additional fees. When departing from the Netherlands, be sure to check here.

BM Air - Specialized agent for S.E. Asia. Helpful in finding good deals, and arranging things like PTA tickets.

Jeroen Hellingman

What readers think...

david awades wrote:
Tuesday, 5 May 2009 18:35:02 PHT
Goodday,every one. If not mistakeing,presently we offer the best cheap airticket world wide.Inquire for details you will find it interesting.cheapairticketsworld@gmail.com thanks and best regards
Jason wrote:
Monday, 22 September 2008 06:08:19 PHT
Thank you for this post! For Europe travelers, here is a helpfull website for budget flights within Europe. I hope you can use it!
Jeroen Dunnewold wrote:
Thursday, 18 January 2007 19:23:50 PHT
AT the moment (Thursday 18th of Jan) I am in the Philippines. I would like to get on Monday 22nd of January due to family circumstances. Unfortunately I have a unchangeble ticket. Can you please explain how to get that stand by ticket of 400 euro? (Kan ook in het Nederlands) Bedankt, Jeroen
Baby wrote:
Thursday, 2 March 2006 08:15:52 PHT
Thanks for the tips. I checked expedia.com and their cheapest that I found was $2,300 back and forth from US to Philippines. Orbitz.com was $1,361
Bill Gillespie wrote:
Friday, 20 January 2006 08:43:37 PHT
I heard from someone that when ur buying tickets online, you can get really good deals if you look really early in the morning, like 2-4a.m. I was wandering if this was true or not?

Read all 14 comments by readers.

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