Tips for getting super cheap airline tickets

There’s another on-going seat sale right now, and despite my vow not to use my credit card this month, I ended up abusing it. My last tally of 7 tickets have now risen to 13 tickets. Total damage to my credit card: Php 2,335.80 for 6 one-way tickets to different destinations. Next year is going to be totally crazy. Fare thee well, Japan.

NAIA Centennial Airport 04
Random photo of an airplane just so this entry has a photo.

So how do I end up with these cheap fares? Here are some of the things that help me score tickets at rock-bottom prices:

Watch out for seat sales and airline promos
This is fairly easy, since you can sign up for each airline’s mailing list. Once you sign up, you’ll receive an e-mail alerting you about upcoming sales and promos (just make sure they don’t end up in your spam box!). If you’re wary about giving out your e-mail address, Twitter and Facebook are two alternatives, as airlines are now utilizing social media to promote their sales. If you prefer to stay updated via RSS, there are a number of blogs focused solely on posting about airlines promos. People flock to the airline website as soon as the sale start, and for the first few hours, the website will be incredibly slow and sometimes, you can’t access it at all. What you should do is to either stay up late or wake up early: the traffic eases up around 3am, and stays that way until about 6am.

Be mindful of your dates
We usually base our trip dates on our non-working holidays. For those working with a strict schedule, this is probably the only time they can get out of work. However, before you book those dates, check the holidays of your destination! If there’s a public holiday in your destination, airlines would most likely not give out sale fares for these dates. Of course, if you’re flying in for a specific holiday or festival, book your ticket as soon as you get the confirmed dates to get the best deals (book your accommodation as well, since rooms quickly fill up during festivals). If and when possible, travel on a weekday, when there are less people traveling.

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Study the airline’s route map
When airlines announce their promos, they usually publish the fares to specific destinations. Unfortunately, flights in and out of Manila are limited. However, a number of budget airlines fly to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, where there are more flights to various cities within the Southeast Asia and beyond. Don’t be discouraged that XXXXXX Airlines only fly to 2 destinations from Manila — they could be flying to other more exotic destinations from their hub. You just need to find an alternative way of getting there ;)

Round trip isn’t the only way
Round trip tickets are always cheaper than one-way tickets on regular airlines. However, low cost carriers give you more flexibility in this aspect, as the fare for each way are the same, varying only on the taxes imposed on each airport. Your exit point doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as your entry point. For example, if you’re looking to travel around South East Asia from the Philippines, you can start your journey in Ho Chi Minh and end it in Singapore. A note on buying one-way tickets though: if you’re holding a Philippine passport flying out of Manila as a tourist, you need to present your ticket for the flight back to Manila, else they wouldn’t let you check in for your flight out.

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Just because it’s not budget, it means it’s expensive
There are several ways of getting from Point A to Point B. Following my example above, you can either fly from Vietnam to Singapore to catch your plane home, or you can be adventurous and travel overland through Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. On the same vein, unless you’re traveling from a remote location, there would usually be more than one airline serving the cities you’re flying to. Do not constrain yourself with the budget airlines. Put your Google-fu to practice and research all the airlines serving the route and check each one for their fares. Yes, even the regular airlines. Last October, when I went to Bangkok, I flew via Philippine Airlines instead of the competing budget airline because the fare I was able to get from PAL is so much cheaper. Don’t limit yourself to the lite fares as well (carry-on only, no check-in baggage): check what’s the price difference between the lite fares to the regular economy tickets. You’ll be surprised that sometimes, there’s only a minimal price difference, or sometimes none at all.

Always read the fine line
Each promo have its own terms and conditions, which is often different from the terms and conditions for regular fares. Promo fares are usually non rebookable, non transferable non reroutable and non refundable. Other restrictions include limited or no baggage allowance or higher than usual re-booking fees. If you’re buying tickets for a trip more than 6 months ahead, consider investing on a ticket that will allow you to rebook without additional fees.

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Hold your clicks!
In your haste to get that coveted ultra cheap fare, you might end up clicking “OK” after skimming through the text. Hold your horses and READ! There are pre-selected choices there for services that you might not need. These come in the form of check-in baggage allowance (if you’re backpacking, you wouldn’t really need that 15K baggage allowance now, would you? Unless you went crazy shopping in Bangkok…), in-flight meals, travel insurance, preferred seats, etc. Also, be mindful of the wordings, as they can be quite tricky — sometimes you need to click on Cancel instead of the usual OK.

I hope this tips help you plan for your next adventure. Wait, why are you still here reading? Go book your flight now!

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 17 Comments
  1. estan says:

    one time, due to my haste (and excitement), I booked the wrong date :)

  2. “Your exit point doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as your exit point.”


  3. Cat says:

    Awesome tips, Nina. ;) Now let me see if I can find some über cheap tickets for vacation 2010. ;)

  4. nina says:

    Estan: Eep, sayang!

    Magnetic_rose: AHAHAA, I knew I was going to miss something. Thanks!

    Cat: Yesss! you have to come visit!

  5. AudMraz says:

    Great tips Nina :) I just love that feeling (almost like an adrenaline rush eh?) after getting the tickets confirmed.

    Now, I guess we just have to hold on to our horses till the travel dates. Happy travels!

  6. Cat says:

    G’ah—we SO want to head back to the Philippines with Rome. I’m gonna try your tip about following some discount sites / blogs to see if I can snag a good deal. :)

  7. freeze says:

    surprisingly i wasn’t tempted with the (recent) series of seat sale. haha

    thanks for the tips, nina.

  8. flipnomad says:

    Great Article!!!

    “round trip isnt the only way”

    i agree, i don’t like retracing my routes even with overland trips. about round trip tickets, i think sometimes it’s just a waste of money and time unless you’re just sticking in one destination and you only have three days to spend.

    “A note on buying one-way tickets though: if you’re holding a Philippine passport flying out of Manila as a tourist, you need to present your ticket for the flight back to Manila, else they wouldn’t let you check in for your flight out.”

    This is something that I find ridiculous with our immigration. I know they’re just doing their job but they also have to understand that not all Filipinos are flying out to be illegal workers somewhere. I hope they could increase their trust level to Filipino travelers, even just a little bit.

    A lot of nationalities traveling outside their respective countries don’t need to present any return ticket. I experienced this in Clark last summer. I was checking in and they refused to board me unless i have a flight back to manila. I presented them my 3 or 4 onward tickets to different destinations and explained to them that im backpacking and i dont know when my trip will end. but they didnt accept my explanation so i ended up buying a ticket that i wasnt able to use.

    sigh… i’d like to dream of a borderlesss world…

  9. rica says:

    “Php 2,335.80 for 6 one-way tickets to different destinations:

    all i can say is wow!

  10. nina says:

    AudMraz: Oh yes!

    Cat: Goodluck to you! I hope to see you and the boys here :D

    Freeze: buti ka pa may self-control lol

    Flipnomad: inis no? Oh wells.

    Rica: Ako rin napapa-wow everytime naalala ko :D

  11. brian says:

    Hi Nina. Nice site!

    I had a problem when leaving Bangkok on my way to Hong Kong. Thai Air would not let me get on the plane without showing a departure ticket FROM Hong Kong. So I had run thru BKK, use an overpriced Internet cafe and print out my ticket. Learned my lesson.

    I also try to book early morning or late night flights. Sometimes those are cheaper and the airports are less crowded and hectic at those times too.

  12. jesy says:

    great tips nina (as always ) :) I got on an ongoing sale too, and it was a breeze when i booked on the first day of the sale. But since the travel period is six months away from now, I just got two roundtrips. Baka kasi masayang lang hehe. Just to let you know as well, your blog is my tour guide to those next two travels :D Thanks!

  13. nina says:

    Brian: I’m the opposite, I try to avoid red-eye flights when I can. For some reason, I have a harder time falling asleep when traveling at night than when traveling during the day.

    Jesy: Uuy, where are you going ah? Down under ba? ;)

  14. Jesy says:

    hehehe, I’m skipping countries which require visas at the moment. I’m trying to explore backpacking through visa-free asia :) I’m quite nervous though :D

  15. nina says:

    Jesy: nah, don’t be! I was able to survive traveling alone for a month. You can do it :)

  16. It amazes me how these airlines can throw in a lot of super cheap airfares while still paying a lot for aviation fuel. There are drawbacks as you’ve mentioned along with the non-existent inflight service but I wouldn’t complain if I myself can snatch one of those tickets.

  17. mai says:

    great tip!impressive!=)

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