1. Look beyond your intended origin and destination
Airfares are priced by market conditions, not by distance. Originating in a neighboring city like HCMC (SGN) will sometimes chop off nearly half your ticket price, especially in the premium cabin. At a minimum, you should always look at SGN, HAN, CMB and KTM airports. These markets usually offer low fares in business and first classes. Similarly, compare prices of landing in a few different airports within the general geography you‚Äôre targeting. When employing this strategy, however, you should be mindful of the visa requirements of the countries on your flight path. Depending on what passport you hold, you may need to have a visa to enter certain countries, even if it’s only for a short flight connection.
2. Make your itinerary strategic
Should a good deal deviate you from your original path, make sure it‘ll be cost-effective and convenient for you to connect to/from your intended origin/destination. Many airlines have an interline agreement where bags can be checked through even when your itinerary involves flights ticketed separately on different carriers. For example, you may find a great deal on a CMB-DOH-JFK flight on Qatar Airways. To position yourself in Colombo, you could buy a separate BKK-CMB ticket on SriLankan Airlines. When checking in at BKK, you may ask to have your bags checked from BKK all the way to JFK. This is possible because SriLankan and Qatar have an interline agreement, and they both belong to the OneWorld alliance. In many cases, airlines have an interline agreement in place even when they do not belong to the same alliance.
3. Check all travel classes
Many of us assume that flying first class is out-of-reach and limit our fare search to eco and business classes only. While not always the case, occasionally first class fares do turn up lower or just slightly higher than business class fares on the same flight. This is because many corporations will comp their employees up to business class only, resulting in some flights being oversold in business cabin with the first cabin going empty. Also, many big promotions and unadvertised price cuts are specific to a travel class; often times you won’t know there’s a deal unless you check. (Earlier this year, Emirates was selling first class tickets to London at virtually the same price as business class, which was also cheaper than THAI‘s business class.)
4. Time your purchase wisely
Most airlines will sell you a ticket up to a year out. It’s very rare, however, that you will land a good deal buying that far in advance. Airlines often use promotions to help short- to mid-term sales, which are typically good for flights 2-4 months out. Also, some airlines like Qatar Airways and Etihad have a pattern of running a 2-for-1 promotion a few times a year. Wait for those if you’ll be traveling in a pair, or use it as an excuse to find a travel buddy.
5. Never waste precious airline miles on eco tickets
Airline miles are like currency; you should always maximize the value you get out of them. Take Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Plus for example: the program requires 70,000 miles to redeem a round-trip ticket to London in Eco, 130,000 in Business, or 180,000 in First. Meanwhile, those tickets would cost you in cash B35,880 in Eco, B118,950 in Business, or B211,375 in First. With a simple division, we can calculate the monetary value of the miles accordingly: B0.51/mile, B0.92/mile, or B1.17/mile depending upon whether the redemption is in Eco, Business, or First, respectively. As illustrated in this particular case, you will get 80-percent more value out of your miles when redeeming in Business, or 129-percent more when redeeming in First, compared with redeeming in Eco.