This article was written by Timothy Ng who is a regular personal finance writer and part of the team at Credit Card Finder, a 100% free Australian credit card comparison and application service. Visit the Credit Card Finder website for more information on the available frequent flyer credit cards.
The cost of air travel has increased dramatically in the last few years. Many people have even stopped holidaying abroad because of the rising prices. There are some very smart and easy ways to cut the cost of your flights by thinking, and planning ahead.
Since the heyday of air travel in the decade after the Second World War, the level of service has declined steadily from what we would now consider to be excessive ‘super’ first class, to not far above the cattle truck level.
For many years, this seemed alright because the ticket prices went steadily down as well, relative to average earnings, meaning that by the late 70s almost everyone could afford to fly if that was the best or only means to travel to their destination.
Massive increase in ‘peripheral charges’
All of a sudden, things have gone wrong. Increased fuel prices, greatly increased security costs, sky-high (sic) aircraft and equipment outlay and maintenance costs combine with higher taxes (including environmental ‘green’ taxes), higher airport costs and much higher peripheral expenses to make air travel now an extremely expensive option in many cases.
Obviously, prices go up and down during the year and there are special offers to be had, but overall the cost of a flight nowadays is approximately twice and a bit more what it was 20 years ago in relative terms, even if the ticket price is roughly equivalent.
What has happened is that especially on ‘discount’ flights, the airlines have started to charge for everything, and charge through the nose. No more complimentary headphones, meals, drinks and blankets can be found, and if you have tried to sweet talk a couple of kilos over your luggage weight through without paying, I’m sure you know what I mean.
If it isn’t enough to need to take a mortgage out on a car park space or a taxi ride to the airport, just being in an airport these days will probably cost you an arm and a leg, and it probably won’t be long before you have to pay for waiting seats or even a place to stand.
Don’t forget most airports already charge to use the lavatories, and food, drinks, books and newspapers are all hugely overpriced. What galls even more is that duty free is no longer a bargain, in almost every case it will not save you money.
Ways to save money on airline tickets
So what can you do to try to beat the airlines at their own game and maybe save some cash in the bargain? There are a few important things worth remembering.
Cheapest ticket price often doesn’t mean cheapest flight. Read the small print, and see exactly what you get, and exactly what extra you will have to pay.
Absolutely take the minimum luggage with you, make sure you accurately weigh it and allow some leeway for bathroom scales, which often can be out by more than 10 %.
Make sure you know what you can carry on and what you can check in without paying, and do not exceed it. Remember it is cheaper to buy a kilo of clothes and toiletries at the other end than it is to carry them on a plane at excess baggage prices.
Check in detail the food and drink rules, both for the flight and for the airport. If you can take your own, then do so. It would be almost impossible to make something worse than the standard fare they offer, and the prices charged are exorbitant. If you have to choose a flight that doesn’t allow you to take your own food, fill up beforehand and sit it out. Don’t forget some customs regulations may limit what you can take with you as well.
Try and be flexible, and check in early. Most flights these days are overbooked, and if you volunteer early enough to be ‘bumped’ if all the seats are full, you can get reasonably good compensation for taking a later flight. This will only save you money if you are prepared for a wait.
Always take your own headphones, books, entertainment and anything else you need with you, but be aware that they will weigh them too unless they are in your pockets.
Lastly try to get a friend to drop you off but make sure first they won’t have to pay to drive you into the drop off area.