How to get a cheap flight
From shopping around to paying with reward points, there are loads of ways to cut the cost of flying.
Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, there are plenty of ways to save money.
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
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).
Apply successfully for the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit cards (you get an American Express and Mastercard), spend a minimum of £500 a month for the first three months and you’ll receive 15,000 Avios – enough for a return flight to Western Europe (you’ll have to pay £30 on top).
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, from £30 for European flights to a whopping £600 for Australia. As such, it’s now only really worthwhile redeeming them on shorter flights. You can earn points via a variety of reward credit cards and by shopping online via the Avios store.
NatWest/Royal Bank of Scotland YourPoints: you can use these points to pay for flights from both easyJet and online travel agent ebookers. It costs around 11,000 points for a return UK flight (compared to 9,000 Avios), but that does include taxes and charges. You can collect these by spending on a NatWest/RBS Your Points credit card.
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).
Go as a courier
Many moons ago, this used to be a good way of getting a cheap flight in exchange for carrying some documents. Sadly, now the only route operating is from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita with British Airways. The return fare starts at £532 in the low season, which is up to half the normal cost. For more information, call British Airways World Cargo on 0870 320 0301.
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.