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How to get a cheap flight

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Last updated on

15 April 2014

From shopping around to paying with reward points, there are loads of ways to cut the cost of flying.

Shop around

There are number of flight comparison sites out there, so make sure you use them to do the hard work for you. Try the likes of Kayak, Skyscanner, Momondo and Fly.com.

Once you’ve done that, take a look at the cheapest airlines’ own websites, as they may have special deals on offer or a sale. If you're going to a popular holiday destination, check charter airlines such as Thomas Cook and Thomson, as well as scheduled airlines, as they may be cheaper.

Play around with dates

It can often be cheaper to fly mid-week, so if you’re not restricted by dates, see if you can cut the price even further by changing when you go.

Compare the total price

If you’re comparing so-called full-price airlines with budget ones, make sure you compare prices accurately. Budget airlines are notorious for levying extra charges for everything from checked-in luggage to paying by credit card.

Play your cards right

There are several credit cards that will offer you free flights, or enough reward points to pay for one.

The Flybe card offers one return flight (again you just pay taxes and charges) to select UK and European destinations as soon as you spend on the card (you can spend as little as you like).

With the British Airways American Express card you’ll get a bonus 9,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 with your first three months with the card. That’s enough for a return flight to many European destinations (though you’ll have to pay £35 on top).

There’s also the Virgin Atlantic White credit card, which gives you 3,000 miles when you make your first purchase, plus an additional 7,000 miles if you spend £1,000 in your first three months with the card. That’s enough for a flight within the UK.

Meanwhile, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card will give you 20,000 Membership Reward points if you spend £2,000 in the first three months you hold the card. These points can be converted into Avios, Nectar points or frequent flyer points for 15 airlines. Note that this is a charge card so you have to pay off the balance in full each month. And there’s normally a £125 membership fee, which is currently being waived for the first year.

Use points to pay

If you’re a member of a reward or loyalty scheme, either directly or via a credit card, you could use the points to pay for flights. Here are the top general schemes.

Avios: formerly Aimiles, this scheme divides the world into zones based on distance. The Avios required to pay for them increases correspondingly. Return flights from the UK to other UK and Western European destinations cost 9,000 Avios and then the cost increases incrementally up to 100,000 Avios for a return flight to Australasia. However, all flights have taxes and fees added on to them. You can earn points via a variety of reward credit cards and by shopping online via the Avios store.

Nectar: 500 points is worth £2.50 off easyJet flights. Note that admin and credit card fees apply for all bookings made via Nectar. You can earn points at a host of retailers, including Sainsbury’s, and via Nectar credit cards.

Tesco Clubcard: £10 in Clubcard vouchers is worth £15 of rewards tokens on Monarch flights; £2.50 in vouchers is worth 625 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, 600 Avios or 600 BA Executive Club Avios.

Many airlines also have their own loyalty schemes which reward frequent flyers. Some, such as FlyBe’s Rewards4All and Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club, also allow you to earn points if you spend using their branded credit cards (Virgin also rewards you for making online purchases via its shopping website).

Look for age discounts

If you’re a student, or under 26, it’s worth checking out STA Travel. Not only will they help you tailor your journey, but they also have fares especially for younger travellers.

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