Cheap Flights, Airline Tickets

A flight landing VERY low at St Maarten airport in the Caribbean

A flight landing at St Maarten airport in the Caribbean. Photo by Timo Breidenstein.

How to book the cheapest flights

Compare prices

Price-comparison websites are the easiest way to find the cheap flights but they can also be misleading.

First, most do not list fares from every airline operating the route

Second, they do not normally quote exact fares. This is because they are not quite up to date, because they can’t replicate the many preferences that an individual might have – to check in baggage, for example – and because they can’t reflect all the different booking fees that might be charged for using different credit or debit cards.
They can also be subject to technical hitches without the user realising. Even so, they are a useful guide, as long as you bear in mind the limitations and check at least two or three as part of your research.

Go to the regional pages listing price comparison websites, agency sites and other useful information:

Also try Canadian-run FlightHub for Cheap tickets in North America or weekend flights.

Saving money on low cost flights

Times are still tough for world travel with austerity budgets spreading and fuel/flight costs higher than ever, so consider a vacation destination that isn’t long-haul and do some thorough research.

There are obvious downsides to flying with low cost airlines so check ‘legacy’ airlines, their fares may be competitive if you take in account all the extras (food, drink, baggage+! ) and if you have problems you are much more likely to receive satisfaction.

Tips

1: Book online and pay by debit card, (Ryanair may charge for this). If using a tour operator check they have ATOL insurance coverage. According to industry research the optimum time to pre-book is 8 weeks before departure.

2: Keep check-in baggage to the minimum, preferably zero, for cheap flights and ensure the airline knows how many bags you’ll have. n. b. Ryanair will not permit musical instruments as hand baggage.

3: Eliminate any ‘world care fund’ or ‘carbon footprint’ contributions – they probably go straight into the airline’s revenue stream.

4: If you already have travel insurance make sure the airline doesn’t add it to your charge by default. If not, check offerings through a price comparison site, and consider multi-trip insurance if you take more than one holiday abroad in a year.

5: Check flight status before leaving home.

6: If you are planning to drive yourself to the airport, choose your parking area and book it well in advance to get the cheapest rate. Alternatively explore public transport options; buses are often fast and good value for couples, though not perhaps if travelling as a family.

7: Never change money at the departure airport – apart from a little emergency cash if essential. Check around before you leave for the best exchange deals; for example the UK’s Post Office offers good value. If you forget and need some cash pronto, exchanges at your destination usually give better rates, assuming you don’t arrive in the middle of the night.

8: Car hire costs differ dramatically place to place, so research will be required in this area too. If you’re planning to head for a city first then drive around the country, it will be easier and cheaper to taxi or bus into town from the airport then rent a car after you’ve finished the city sightseeing.

Check consumer rights and protection against airlines and tour operators going bust, hotel overbookings, TripAdvisor fake reviews and more on our Consumer Protection page.

How to avoid problems with flights

A couple of lessons learnt from various tour operator collapses which left tourists stranded abroad or terminated their planned holidays without either holiday or refund:

• Pay for your vacation package or flight deals by credit card, not debit card as the credit card carries it’s own purchase guarentee but the debit card doesn’t.

• Check that your tour operator is covered by the ATOL (or equivalent in your country) insurance scheme which ensures a full refund if a trip goes belly up.

• Check your flight status before leaving your home or hotel! It may save you a lot of stress. , and while you’re at it maybe check your booking at your hotel. . .

Compensation for delayed or cancelled flights

James Fremantle of the Air Transport Users Council says: ‘Passengers should not be out of pocket. Remember the law does not specify a limit as to how much compensation you can claim and indeed a limit of £100 for a last minute hotel sounds quite unrealistic. ‘

Peter McCarthy at consumer group Which? agrees. ‘As long your claims are reasonable and you don’t book yourself into somewhere really extravagant, passengers should press ahead with claims even if they are over the airline’s ‘limits’. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you are entitled to assistance. This can include free meals and refreshments depending on how long you are waiting. It also includes free hotel accommodation and transfers to the hotel if the re-routed flight means you have an overnight stay at the airport.
You are also allowed two free phone calls, faxes or e-mails and you may be entitled to financial compensation if your flight is cancelled, depending on the circumstances.

Some possible claims

Cancellation of Flights – if your flight is cancelled you are entitled to the following, as long as you are a passenger flying from an EU airport or from an airport outside the EU to an EU airport on an EU carrier:

Refund or re-routing – you will be given a choice between a refund of the ticket or of re-routing to your final destination. You are not entitled to reimbursement of any other components of your trip such as hotel and transfer costs.

Compensation – If there is a delay in getting to your destination due to re-routing, compensation varies according to the length of your journey and the delay to your destination. For example, if your journey was up to 1500km and you were delayed by up to two hours, you will receive 125 Euros. If your journey was more than 3500km and you were delayed by more than four hours, you will be compensated by 600 Euros.

Assistance at the airport – free meals and refreshments as well as two free phone calls/ emails/ faxes should also be provided when waiting for the re-routed flights. In the event of re-routing when the flight is the next day, free accommodation and transfer to and from that accommodation should be provided by the airline.

Bottom line flight advice: if you want to be sure you arrive at your destination with your baggage you are better off NOT flying BA. While the scale of the current crisis is unique and cancelled flights are uncommon, BA does have a long history of losing luggage and weaseling out of compensation payments.

Your airline rights – cheap tickets or not so cheap?!

In February 2005 the European Union introduced new rules on compensation for problems on flights, not dissimilar to America’s Montreal Convention that came into force in 2004.
The European regulations are supported and monitored by the Air Transport Users’ Council (AUC), but airlines plan to challenge the rules in the European Court of justice in late 2005.
The rules are complex but here’s a summary of the current situation:

– if there’s a problem, whether it’s a delay, cancellation or you’ve been bumped off a flight due to overbooking, complain immediately and demand written details of your rights.
If you make a claim in writing the airline should pay you by cheque within a week. If not, send your correspondence on to AUC at 45-59, Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE. If they believe the airline is at fault they will pass your information on to the Civil Aviation Authority who have the power to fine airlines heavily.

– delays: compensation depends on the length of delay and the length of flight but, for example, a 1, 500km flight delayed by two hours should result in meals, refreshments and a couple of free phone calls/emails.
For an airline flight delayed by more than five hours you should receive all the above and may receive full refund for the cost of the ticket if you choose to give up on the flight.
If the airport closes before your delayed flight can leave the airline must pay for a hotel room and transfer to it.

– cancellations: if the airline can show that the cancellation was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances which could not be avoided’ then you get nothing. Circumstances could be bad weather, airport strikes (though not the airline staff), security alerts and traffic control difficulties.
If you have to wait, for example two hours, and before your 1, 500km (930 miles) flight is cancelled you will be entitled to a full refund and £170. The rate rises with length of time and length of wait.

– bumped: if the flight is overbooked and you cannot board, there are special rules covering overbooked flights from airports in the European Union. The rules also apply to flights from airports outside the European Union, but flying into a European Union airport, on a European Union airline. These rules apply only if you were not allowed to board the flight, not if you volunteered to take a different flight. Under these rules you can get compensation for the overbooking, as long as you meet certain conditions. You must have a valid ticket, which has been confirmed for the overbooked flight, and you must have checked in by the deadline given to you by the airline.

As long as you meet all these conditions you will be entitled to:

– a full refund of your ticket and a free return flight to your first point of departure, if you need it; or. . .

– another flight as soon as possible or at a later date of your choice.

You will also be entitled to:

– compensation. The amount you will get depends on the length of your flight and how late you are in getting to your final destination.

– two telephone phone calls, or emails, or telexes or faxes.

– reasonable meals and refreshments if you have to wait for a later flight.

– hotel accommodation if you are delayed overnight.

If your flight is overbooked the airline should give you a form stating what compensation is available.

If the rules applying to EU flights do not apply, you may still be able to get compensation for overbooking. You will need to check with your airline whether any compensation is available for your particular circumstances.

For more information about overbooking on all flights, see the Air Travel Advice section on the Air Transport Users Council website.

Consumer Protection Information on what to do in the event of overbooked hotels, failed travel services and more.

World’s Worst major airport terminals. Avoid them!

• Beauvais Airport, Paris
Not it isn’t in or near Paris! It’s 50 miles (80kms) away in Picardy, with no rail service to the city. Furthermore it’s a hideously cheap and nasty box of a building with little seating or services and it closes at night so if your Ryanair flight here is late then you will be walking the streets.

• LaGuardia, New York City, consistently gets rated as the worst airport in America and US Airways Terminal is the worst place to be in the airport, a dreary space with almost no services but massive overcrowding and delays.

• JFK Terminal 3, New York City. JFK is one of the USA’s worst airports, ugly, tired, dirty, undermanned, confusingly laid out, badly signed and with third world facilities, but Terminal 3 is la merde de la merde, a dark and dismal Purgatory that passengers would die to escape from.

• Queen Alia Airport, Amman, Jordan joins the list of worst due to a basic lack of passenger rest/waiting facilities and terrible hygiene in bathrooms.

• Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 3, Paris. This terminal has two problems: changing planes here is a nightmare due to the widely dispersed terminals and disorganised shuttle bus service; Terminal 3 in particular seems to be a haven for poor, huddled masses of homeless people.

• Sheremetyevo Airport, Terminals B/C, Moscow. Another place where transits are hell as this terminal is a long way from the rest of the airport and its rail station, staff are surly, unhelpful and frequently refuse to/cannot speak English, the baggage hall is chaotic and signs generally are erratically in English.

World’s Safest Airlines

The Top Ten world’s safest airlines in 2016 according to AirlineRatings.com:
1. Quantas (Australia)
2. Air New Zealand
3. Alaska Airlines (USA)
4. All Nippon Airlines (Japan)
5. American Airlines
6. Cathay Pacific (China)
7. Emirates (UAE)
8. Etihad Airways (UAE)
9. EVA Air (Taiwan)
10. Finnair (Finland)
The highest British  airline was Virgin Atlantic at number 19.

Safest 10 Low Cost Airlines in alphabetical order:
Aer Lingus, Flybe, HK Express, Jetblue, Jetstar Australia, Thomas Cook, TUI Fly, Virgin America, Volaris and Westjet.
Unlike many low cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records.

More

Hundreds of airlines are banned in the European Union due to dangerous practices and accident records among other criteria. Among them are 37 Kazakh carriers, 43 Indonesian, Iran Air, endless African airlines including Mozambique, Congo (DRC), Benin, Madagascar, Gabon, Zambia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe. Also many airlines in Philippines, Kyrgyz, Equitorial Guinea and Afghanistan run dodgy flights.

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