Flying may have become cheaper post GST, but airfares still become prohibitive during peak season.
There’s no mistaking the fact that in India, flying is still considered a luxury. It may help people get to their destination in the shortest possible time, but that convenience comes at a steep price. GST may have slashed taxes on economy class fares, but airfares still become prohibitive during the holiday season.
Here are 6 tricks you can use to save on airfare irrespective of the season you’re flying in.
A few facts first:
In 2016, around 10 crore passengers took domestic flights, and another 5.5 crore flew via international routes. In sharp contrast, the India Railways sold 13 crore tickets for AC coaches.
More people may be opting to fly nowadays, but the logic behind airfare pricing still eludes many. Airfares are highly dynamic and geared towards profit generation. Air tickets in India, like other countries, are completely deregulated. However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) keeps a close tab on the pricing to check anti-competitive practices.
Airlines follow a system of pricing that is unique to their industry. Since air travel is a perishable product, airlines sell their seats in buckets and start taking bookings months in advance. When the lowest buckets with the cheapest tickets are sold out, they move the ticket pricing up to the next bucket. Since the airline capacity is fixed for six months at a time, a ticket will become expensive when there’s a surge in demand.
The pricing method followed by airlines is known as yield management. It tries to maximise revenues per passenger kilometre (RPKM). This is fairly different from the pricing model followed by hotels, taxi aggregators and even the Indian Railways.
The RPKM in 2016 was Rs. 4, which meant that to fly 1km, a passenger had to shell out Rs. 4. Interestingly, this is equivalent to what one shells out to travel by bus or rail. This shows how air travel is becoming as affordable as bus or train travel.
Tricks to fly cheap:
Before booking a flight, use flight comparison websites like Google flights, Kayak or Skyscanner to compare fares across different airlines to your desired destination. This will give you a better picture and help you select a more economical option. If you’re flexible with the dates, instead of selecting a specific date for your departure, select the entire month to know when the cheapest time to fly is.
Additional reading: Flights Are Now Cheaper, Thanks To GST!
Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays
Airfares are driven by supply and demand forces. So when supply is low, demand will be high. Most people travel for work on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and travel either around the weekend or Fridays for personal vacations. Thus, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays will usually have the cheapest airfares during the week. If your travel dates are flexible enough, try flying on any of these days for cheaper air tickets.
Additional reading: Cheapest Flight Tickets: Travel To Europe At Just Rs. 12,000
Use incognito mode at the time of booking
Every time you make a flight booking, the travel portal automatically records your server details and cookies. So when you visit the same website for the second time and after a few days, the website server reads your details and raises the airfares. You can avoid this, however, if you switch to the private browsing mode or the Incognito mode available on your internet browser. You can continue using the browser in the normal mode after you’ve cleared all the cookies or simply open the website from a different browser or computer.
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Book early, but not too early
The best time to book a flight is 45-90 days before the date of departure. However, try not to book too early. You might get locked into an unfavourably high price for your airfare.
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Book flights during shoulder season
March, April, July, August, and December are the busiest times of the year and flights are in high demand because of school breaks and holidays. If your travel schedule is flexible, try booking flights during shoulder season in the months of May, June, October, and November. Off-season months like January, February, and September are even better when it comes to flight bookings. Tickets will work out to be much cheaper for these months.
Use the airline website to book
The internet may be inundated with travel booking websites that have taken the pain out of booking trips, but you still have to be careful while making bookings on these sites.
Despite the attractive discounts that these websites offer, at the time of checkout, you will be charged much more than what you were shown at the beginning. This is because they levy a hefty service charge on every transaction.
This is why it is advisable to make that extra effort and visit the airline’s official website to book your desired flight. You will surely save a couple of hundred bucks at the very least.
Additional reading: Travel Often? Here Are Tips To Budget!
Rapid increases in airport and airspace capacity and increased regulations have led to a spurt in flight demand in India that is quickly emerging as the world’s fastest growing domestic travel market. For passengers, however, this growth will be truly meaningful when they can make informed choices and fly without burning a hole in their pockets.
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