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Direct flights are always more convenient. But if you've a bit more time, sometimes an indirect flight only adds a couple of hours to the journey, so you can often cut the cost by stopping over. We checked return flights from London to 10 popular long-haul destinations and how much you could save by stopping over. The results are in the table below — as a rule, we found the bigger savings were on longer, non-US flights. All the examples below obviously take longer as they're indirect flights, but you can usually find stopovers that are less than three hours, so not a huge amount of extra travel time.
To look yourself, search via the big price comparison sites we've used above. A few flight-finder websites help spot when an airline drops prices on a particular route, eg, London to New York. As well as deliberate price cuts, they flag pricing mistakes or 'error fares', which can be mega-cheap. These can be short-lived, so you have to go quick if you're after one. JFC's emails have step-by-step instructions on how to book via the airline's website or a comparison site — but you have to move fast. It says on average premium deals last about three or four days, and error fares can go much quicker.
If you purchase an error fare, where an airline has made a mistake with the price, it will often honour it simply to avoid any bad PR.
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Other times it will cancel your booking and you'll be refunded. But if you do book one, it recommends waiting about two weeks before booking any non-refundable aspect of your trip, just in case.
It can be difficult to know at what point your error fare is confirmed, as airlines' terms and conditions don't always clearly spell out at what point your contract with them is legally binding, and therefore your ticket is guaranteed. Realistically, it may be difficult to fight your corner if an airline does cancel your flight. If you've already booked other aspects of your trip such as accommodation, you can try to claim it as 'consequential loss' from the airline you booked with — but there are no guarantees this will work.
Ultimately, you'd likely need to go to the small claims court to try to get back any additional costs incurred but again there are no guarantees. If you like flying with a specific airline or know the exact flight you want, 'codesharing' could be a way to get a flight with that airline via another one. It's when airlines buddy up to sell seats on each other's flights, sometimes at a different price.
Codesharing flights are included in comparison site results, so you'll find them using the sites above. You won't spot them if booking directly with an airline.
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It should be clear on the comparison site, eg, if you book with Virgin, but it's a Delta flight, it should say so. This works best on popular medium or long-haul routes — simply book via a partner airline to grab a seat on the same plane for less. This table lists some of the major airlines that buddy up with each other — it won't always work, but it is worth checking.
Even if you think an airline's safe as houses, it's important to protect yourself as fully as possible. So if you book a flight and the airline goes bust, you can at least get your money back from the card company. Always pay your card off in full at the end of the month so you're not charged interest.
This means if the firm goes bust or there's another issue, your getaway's protected that way. If you book a flight plus separate hotel or car hire together from the same travel website in the same transaction, you get full ATOL financial and legal protection, just as with a traditional package holiday. If you book these elements from the same site, but in different transactions, you'll only get limited protection.
See our Holiday Rights guide for more. It depends on the policy. Most are designed to cover packages.
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The biggest issue is lack of cover for knock-on consequences. For example, if your policy covers scheduled airline failure and the airline collapses, you may be able to claim the flight's cost but not cash paid upfront for a hotel. To beat this, scout out policies that specifically cover 'indirect loss' — it should be in the small print, so check there. For maximum cover, look for increasingly available, albeit pricier, 'independent traveller' policies.
But beware — some cheap airline and holiday websites try to add expensive travel cover when you book. Always double-check the full cost, and beware tick boxes for any rogue policies before paying. Holiday firms' own insurance is usually a massive rip-off and offers more limited cover. Yet many don't realise they have an end date.
If you're flexible on your dates or have an open mind about where to go, try using internet tools to home in on the cheapest destinations and times. However, its standout feature is the 'Flight Insight' data it gives you on some routes. It helps pinpoint when to book, which day to fly and even which airport's cheapest. For example, when we checked, London-Phuket prices were cheapest in November and March, and most expensive in December and July. The time to book is 60 days before departure for the cheapest flights. Yet for a London-New York search, it's best to book 36 days in advance, and it's cheapest to go in February or March.
The results are a useful average to help plan your trip dates rather than a cast-iron guarantee. The data's based on prices quoted in flight searches and includes sales too, so take it with a pinch of salt, and if in doubt book early. If it's available for your route, you'll find a 'Flight insights' option at the top of the results.
Click it — you'll find handy stats to help you hone your dates. It works for over of the most popular routes from the UK most leaving from London , and about 1, worldwide. Sadly, it isn't available for every route yet, but Momondo says it's adding more routes as it gets more data. Momondo's 'days to departure' graphs only go back 60 days, but it may occasionally be possible to get it even cheaper by booking further ahead.
The best time to book seems to be dependent on destination so it's worth looking into where you're going and playing around with dates. The orange-loving airline releases seats in several tranches throughout the year. Keep an eye on our Easyjet tricks guide for the latest dates. Now there's no way to know if you'll get the very cheapest tickets as soon as they're released — prices are based on demand and Easyjet could easily change its pricing policy or cut prices in a sale. But it does tend to be the cheapest time to book, especially for peak dates like the summer holidays.
Luggage, check-in, reserved seats and food are just some of the extras you may have to fork out for with a flight booking.
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And what's worse, they're not always made clear. While you should always double-check these with the airline before you book, it's handy to see the real cost of your ticket so you can make a more accurate comparison. Airport lounges aren't just reserved for first class, business class or elite frequent flyers. Access can be free with certain credit cards or bank accounts, or you can get it cheaply via frequent flyer schemes such as Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club.
Given you could pay that for food, drinks and snacks alone at the airport, it can be good value, especially when you usually get a comfy seat in peace, and a newspaper or magazine thrown in too. Booking budget airline flights can be a minefield. Outrageously, budget airline 'extras' can include taking bags and checking in.
Some tips may even work with non-budget airlines. While public transport usually wins, for large families or groups, driving to the airport can be cheaper. Yet booking early is crucial. Wait till you get to the airport and you're a captive customer — a dream for airport parking companies, not so for MoneySaving. Even booking in advance on the day could save money. Granted we booked for the August bank holiday in March, but it goes to show there are bargains to be had by booking ahead.
To maximise savings, book well in advance.
Just as with flights, comparison sites are the best place to start, but it's also worth trying booking direct, combining parking with a hotel room or renting a personal space near the airport. Holiday car hire can save a hefty whack on taxis to and from the airport, as well as transport costs while you're there, providing you do it right.
If you're going to need it, book the right way and generally as early as possible to grab it cheaply.