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Home Vacation How to get around the great Easter flight rip-off: Ten ways to knock down the price of your getaway

How to get around the great Easter flight rip-off: Ten ways to knock down the price of your getaway

by Staff

Each year Easter witnesses a Great British getaway as millions of us head off on domestic breaks as well as trips to sunny shores.

It’s one of the busiest travel periods of the year. But the big problem for those heading overseas is soaring flight prices.

Airline fares on some routes this Easter are as much as six times higher than just a week after the holiday period – leaving those who have not got round to booking until the last minute badly out of pocket.

Our study of popular Easter routes revealed that British Airways return tickets to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands were £938 when flying away for a week departing on Good Friday. However, after school holidays have ended a week later, the same route was on sale for a mere £152 return.

It’s a phenomenon that crops up throughout the year – prices leaping at peak times covering holidays in the summer, around Christmas as well as at Easter and over Bank Holiday weekends.

So can you get round it? The answer is: yes, if you’re savvy.

Here we’ve gathered some top tips for saving your hard-earned cash during busy periods.

The golden sands of Kaputas, Turkey, are popular for school breaks

FOLLOW ‘FARE TRACKERS’

If you know exactly where you want to go and when, ‘track’ the cost of fares on the route you have an eye on via Google Flights or Skyscanner.net. The latter has a tailored alerts section – see its ‘Find the best flight fares with Skyscanner Price Alerts’ page. It’s possible to set up more than one.

Meanwhile, Google Flights – which is a great place to check the cost of fares on a route via its ‘date grids’ and ‘price graphs’- also allows you to enter specific dates of intended travel and to be alerted when new low fares are released.

Kayak.co.uk is another option, with a ‘flex dates’ feature that helps lower prices by searching within a three-day range of your preferred time.

SIGN UP TO SALE ALERTS

Airlines have regular ticket sales and great savings are to be had if you sign up to online ‘alerts’. With British Airways, this can be done by joining its Executive Club for free at ba.com. You will then receive emails when its regular ticket sales are launched, usually around May, September and December.

Another way to check for BA’s best prices is at ba.com/en-gb/offers/sale where last-minute deals and best flight prices are listed – as well as to take a look at its ‘Low Price Finder’ page.

Save on trips to the fortified city of Valletta, Malta, with our handy tips

Save on trips to the fortified city of Valletta, Malta, with our handy tips

Easyjet has a similar low fare finder arrangement at its ‘Last Minute Deals’ section of easyjet.com. You can also sign up for alerts by downloading the Easyjet app. The same goes for Ryanair’s app and at the airline’s ‘Why are you not subscribed yet?’ page at ryanair.com.

Jet2.com has an equivalent system with messages offering latest deals and highlighting sales being sent via its app. There’s also a handy ‘Incredible Deal and Great Availability’ page on Jet2.com.

GO OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

Avoiding tourist ‘honeypots’ can pay dividends when booking cheap flights. Instead of Prague, consider Brno for a cheap weekend away in the Czech Republic. Rather than Rome or Venice in Italy, how about Bari in Puglia or Bologna in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region?

The flight directory website Skyscanner.net this week highlighted cheap flights over the Easter period to Luxembourg (from £50 return from Stansted with Ryanair) and Oslo (from £133 return from Manchester, also with Ryanair). Tempting prices for Zadar in Croatia, Eindhoven in The Netherlands and Limoges in France.

AVOID WEEKENDS

Try not to travel from Saturday to Saturday. Great savings are to be had for those going mid-week to mid-week, especially for families during the summer holidays. Since the pandemic, employers have become far more flexible about when annual leave is taken – no longer always expecting it to be in Monday-Friday blocks. See if you can take weeks off starting in mid-week and you will almost certainly benefit from lower fares.

Tuesday is said to be the cheapest day for domestic flights, while Wednesday and Thursday offer best value for international travel, with savings of as much as a fifth.

GO FOR SIX NIGHTS – NOT SEVEN

It may seem counterintuitive to lose some of your precious holiday, however dropping one day can result in significant savings – money you can then spend on more nice meals or fun activities when you get there. ‘Staying just one day less can make a difference to the price,’ says Richard Sinclair of travel agency SNO.co.uk, a specialist ski holiday site. ‘And if you combine searching for a six-night trip with also looking for flights that leave mid-week, that could result in the biggest savings.’

It pays to think ahead if you're hoping to take the kids on a pool break

It pays to think ahead if you’re hoping to take the kids on a pool break

THINK WELL AHEAD

The further ahead you book, the more cash you’re likely to save. Forget the myth about what time of the day or day of the week you should book – the bottom-line advice from aviation experts is simply to book as far in advance as possible.

Ultimately, the price of flights is all about supply and demand. If there is demand for certain dates, such as over Easter, then they will sell faster, and airline pricing will increase as fewer seats are available.

WATCH OUT FOR ‘ERROR FARES’

It sounds extraordinary, but sometimes airlines make big mistakes with ticket prices – a famous example being when United Airlines once listed a £4,000 fare in business class from London to New York for £59, prompting a stampede of bookings.

Instances of ‘error fares’ (which must be honoured once purchased) may not always be as eye-catching as this, but they do regularly crop up, being blamed on human error in most cases. In the UK, Jack’s Flight Club keeps an eye out for them – you can sign up to alerts at Jacksflightclub.com, which will also notify you of great airline deals that are not mistakes. Recent round-trip fares it has spotted include £588 return from London to Auckland and Edinburgh to New York from £366 return.

Another option is to check US-based Going.com, which regularly offers savings of up to 40-90% on fares.

CHEAP FLIGHT GURUS

Jack’s Flight Club is just one of a growing number of handy websites gathering tempting flight prices. Sign up for free, or simply check out what they have to offer. For example, Momondo.co.uk has a simple search engine that collates deals from other websites such as Mytrip.com, Flightnetwork.com, Gotogate.com, Edreams.co.uk and Traveljunction.co.uk.

Meanwhile, Hopper.com offers a good search facility. Return flights from London to Boston were from £460 with JetBlue in April, when we looked.

TRY A TRAVEL AGENT

All that said – and it might seem almost old-fashioned to suggest this – but traditional travel agents can often offer advantages over booking online. Justin Penny, head of aviation at Flightcentre.co.uk says this is because online booking sites do not always list all fares. ‘Some airfares have booking criteria meaning they can only be booked offline,’ he says. ‘So my advice would be to contact a reputable agent directly; they are the true travel experts, and are booking holidays hourly.’

BOOK A PACKAGE

And finally… you may spot bargain flights and book them up quickly, but be careful: you may then find any savings are wiped out by sky-high hotel costs. This is where booking a package can keep prices down. Chris Webber, head of holidays and deals at TravelSupermarket.com, says: ‘Tour operators such as TUI, Jet2 and easyJet are often using their own flights in their holiday packages, so it can be better value to book those – you’ll also get a checked baggage allowance, and often a transfer, included.’

When to book for every season 

EASTER: Book in mid-December for flight price savings of around 15%.

MAY BANK HOLIDAY: Mid-February to the end of the month is a good time to book flights, with typical savings of 12-14%.

SUMMER: Search for fares six months in advance for peak season savings of around 7%

CHRISTMAS: Look for airfares in September, when they are routinely 10% lower.

Source: Which? Travel

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