Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Up in the air - thumb rules for finding cheap airline tickets

As if we didn’t suspect it all along, an analysis released on November 28 by travel search engine Kayak shows that 14% of Indian travellers booked their tickets less than a week before they travelled, and ended up paying up to 33% more for trips to some of the most-liked destinations of 2017. The data is based on searches run by Kayak users from January 1 to October 31, 2017, for travel between January 1 to December 31, 2018, comparing it with the corresponding period in the previous year. The number of visitors and searches has not been mentioned.

Before we go into the findings, a quick fact: flight search engines or aggregators (Momondo, Skyscanner, the more multi-purpose Kayak) are different from OTAs (online travel agencies such as MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Cleartrip, Expedia). The former search for deals across the latter, plus a multiplicity of sources that include the original service providers, and lead you to the sites where you make your purchase. Their recommendations depend on the OTAs and airlines they cover.

It’s worth keeping in mind that flight fare aggregators are good resources for understanding how the gargantuan and frenetic civil aviation market works worldwide, but I wouldn’t advise buying the fabulously cheap tickets from all the links to which they lead you. If a fare looks unbelievable, it probably is. I prefer buying my tickets from the airlines themselves for the most trustworthy reservations, refund rules and frequent flyer programmes.

Now, for what Kayak found in this latest review: the top three destinations favoured by Indian travellers were Bangkok (flights to which cost on average 18% more in the week before the date of journey), Dubai (22% more) and Bali (33% more; note that this data was tabulated before Mt Agung’s eruption). Other pricey last-minute destinations on their list are Goa (30% costlier tickets in the week running up to departure), Maldives (27% more), Port Blair (26% more) and Paris (28% more). The least such time-specific increase in average flight costs was to Singapore (13%).

Planning ahead is the answer to travelling more affordably of course, but how far ahead? This is where things get iffy, much as travel hacks would like to claim they have the answers. According to this latest analysis by Kayak, if you buy 51 weeks in advance — yes, almost a whole year — a saving of nearly half the ticket cost is possible. Skyscanner, on the other hand, admits that flight prices change all the time, and its analysis reads Indian civil aviation trends differently.
13/12/17 Lalitha Sridhar/The Hindu