Where to Find Cheap Flights?

The 21st century can be defined in many ways. The era of telecommunications, the digital age, or the information age are some of the most common terms for today’s society. Another way to refer to it, perhaps more concrete but equally reflecting the unprecedented connectivity characterizing these times, would be to call it the era of cheap flights. 

Never before in history has it been so easy to cross the Atlantic, travel from one end of a continent to another, or even move to the opposite side of the globe.

It can be done in a flight of just a few hours and from almost anywhere in the world because most countries today have international airports with direct or indirect connections to a multitude of destinations.

It’s bold to say that air travel is affordable for everyone—some may not afford a transoceanic flight, for example—but it is true that flying is ten times cheaper now than it was 50 years ago. However, prices vary greatly and depend largely on the destination, the airline operating the flight, and the travel conditions.

It is also not the same to book a seat at the last minute for a high-demand date as it is to do it in advance for a working day without upcoming holidays.

Websites to Find Cheap Flights

The first step is to know where to look. In recent decades, there has been a proliferation of websites and applications specialized in flight tracking.

There’s no trick. Ultimately, they end up redirecting to the airlines’ own websites, but the secret to their success is that they aggregate information from all (or most) of them, saving the user time from having to go from page to page in search of the best option for the desired trip.

Some of the most useful ones are the following:

To give an example of how these tools work, most of them have a search engine that allows you to choose the departure and return airports, the date, and the number of passengers.

Skyscanner’s case is particularly interesting since if the buyer is not sure about their preferences, they can search for flights to “anywhere” and go for the cheapest option.

Airlines Offering Cheap Flights

Another good option is to go directly to the websites of the airlines for which you are certain they offer cheap flights.

There are two options for this. On one hand, you can go to local airlines, which usually offer the best prices for routes departing or arriving at their headquarters. On the other hand, you can always opt for the ‘low-cost’ airlines, which offer a more affordable fare in exchange for eliminating some of the services that traditional airlines provide.

It’s very important to consider this. One of the main cost-saving strategies these companies have is operating their flights at airports far from urban centers. For example, if you want to travel to London, these companies are likely not to go to Heathrow, the nearest airport to the British capital, but to Stansted, the farthest one.

Additionally, it’s common for passenger seats to be closer together and not as comfortable, and the onboard staff to be less numerous.

It’s also advisable to carefully check the flight conditions, considering that, in recent years, some low-cost airlines make consumers pay separately for services that were previously included, such as carry-on luggage or the ability to choose a seat.

With all these considerations in mind, there are many companies that guarantee low prices:

Tips for Finding Cheap Flights

Once you’ve figured out where, it’s time to know how. Myths and realities mix when analyzing the best ways to find cheap flights.

For instance, it’s common to read that cookies stored in the browser give ‘clues’ to the airlines, causing them to raise the ticket price, but there is no evidence that this happens.

Nor is there evidence that it’s better to wait until the last moment to purchase a ticket. In fact, it’s usually the worst decision.

There are no magic formulas to turn an expensive flight into a bargain. Ultimately, the price is determined by the airline, and the consumer’s only power is to decide whether to accept it or not.

However, there are key points to choose the best option within the ones available in the market:

  • Book the flight as soon as possible. Although the ticket price doesn’t solely depend on how early it’s bought, this is a determining factor. Generally, the ideal time to buy a flight is usually between seven and ten weeks before the trip, as Skyscanner points out on their blog.
  • Try on different days of the week. It has always been said that the best day to book a flight is Tuesday, and until recently, this could be considered true. The issue is that most airlines no longer set their prices manually; they use complex algorithms that take into account the number of available seats, time, destination popularity, or competitor prices, among other factors. Now that ticket prices fluctuate daily, it’s advisable to monitor the ticket price evolution within the seven to ten weeks range mentioned in the previous point.
  • Greater flexibility leads to a lower price. Those who have thought about traveling to Ireland for the St. Patrick’s celebration or to the Canary Islands to escape the cold should know that they are not alone. This translates into higher prices. If possible, it’s cheapest to travel off-season. If there is no clear preference for dates (e.g., traveling on a Wednesday instead of a Friday), the likelihood of finding an affordable price will increase. The cheapest flights will always be those scheduled late at night or early in the morning.
  • Explore other nearby airports. If there’s no problem traveling from one place to another once at the destination, it may be a good idea to check the prices of airports in nearby cities. Generally, better fares can be found at major airports, but sometimes there are regional airports with lower prices. However, one would need to add the hypothetical transportation cost by train, bus, or car.
  • Search for a single passenger. If traveling in a group and there is no preference for sitting together, it’s interesting to try searching one by one. When searching for flights for multiple travelers on an airline’s website, one of them may be assigned a more expensive seat based on availability. Typically, the company will tend to match the conditions of the other seats with the most expensive one.
  • Round-trip is not always cheaper. Traditionally, the cheapest way to fly was to buy a round-trip ticket with the same company, but with the advent of ‘low-cost’ airlines, this is no longer the case in all scenarios. The so-called flag carriers, such as Iberia or British Airways, tend to increase their fares if the outbound and return flights are purchased separately. However, low-cost carriers allow combining trips without any surcharge. For example, the customer could book the outbound flight with Ryanair for 30 euros and the return with easyJet for 35 euros.
  • Flights with hidden city. There is a controversial practice that some travelers have used until now to save money. It involves taking advantage of the legal loophole that occurs when a customer buys a ticket with one or more layovers but gets off the plane before reaching the final destination. For example, if a direct flight to New York costs 300 euros, while a flight to Toronto with a layover in New York costs 250, the user could opt for the second option and save 50 euros. Faced with the growing number of people using this tactic, companies like Orbitz or United Airlines sued the website Skiplagged. Others, like Lufthansa, took certain customers to court. So far, no court has ruled in their favor. On the other hand, it’s worth noting the risk of luggage ending up in the city of the second layover instead of where the passenger gets off.

How to Find Cheap Flights with Google Flights

If there’s a definitive tool for finding cheap flights, it’s Google Flights. Launched in 2011 and perfected over the years, it’s a search service that allows you to find the best travel options instantly.

Not only that, but it also incorporates several features appreciated by deal hunters. Firstly, Google Flights offers the same as the flight comparators mentioned earlier.

Without evaluating which one collects a greater volume of information and how it organizes it, both in those and in this, you can choose a departure location, a destination, and the dates for round-trip travel for the search engine to return a list of results.

Likewise, you can segment by layovers, airlines, or flight duration, among other filters.

The most interesting feature is the ‘flexible dates’ section, where you can choose a month, a week, two weeks, or a weekend.

By selecting this parameter, Google will prioritize flights below 50 euros and mark with colors (green for a decrease and red for an increase) whether the price is below or above the usual.

If, in addition to that, you leave the destination box blank, the search will show a map with the cheapest travel options, ideal for those whose preference is for the trip to be economical rather than the location itself.

Another very useful function is the price history in Google Flights. Once you’ve chosen the desired destination, simply click on ‘price graph.

‘This way, you can know which are the best dates to travel to that place, in which part of the year flights are more expensive, and in which they are cheaper.

If you have already decided on the destination, the website also allows you to track prices. By simply clicking on ‘track prices, the user will receive email updates when the prices change.