How to book an air ticket

Booking a ticket for air travel is rather like swimming through trekle. You think you've found your perfect flight - and then another one comes along for five pounds less, or on a better airline. And then you book - and a week later than flight goes onto promotion, and you could have got it at half the price. Or you think that you should wait - and the prices dramatically increase just as you book.

However, if you play the game, you can get some good fares on decent airlines. As always, there is no right way to do it, and note that my strategy mostly only applies only to the so called Grandfather Carriers - if you're booking on Ryanair or Easyjet, just go straight to them. However, do not assume that they are the cheapest - some old carriers are now rapidly undercutting the so called low-cost airlines fares.

Firstly decide what you want

Got that lot? Good... Ok, now try a simple search on Expedia, to get a rough idea and figure of what flights are available, and what airlines fly direct.

Next, see if any airlines have any current promotions with any consolidators - you can run a quick check on www.cheapflights.co.uk which gives a list of all the airlines promotional offers at the moment. Looking in the Independent and the Guardian can also yield results. However, note that these are just promotions that were current at one time - it doesn't mean they will always be available. Try all of these consolidators to see if you can get any deals.

Then run through the list of consolidators. These are travel companies which sell airtickets which they have in effect "bought in advance" and which they will try ans sell on. Some are:
Expedia
Travelocity
Airline-network
Opodo
Ebookers
Benztravel
Priceline

By now you should have a list of which airlines are possibles; try going direct to their websites.

It can also be worth trying an obscure route. If you are booking a British Airways flight, try going through the AA uk site. This American site prices flights in a different way to BA, and can often work out cheaper for shorthall. The same goes for using Austrian Airlines site for all Star Alliance flights. If you are doing this, make sure you select the e-ticket option.

If you are trying to maximise your FrequentFlyer miles, check out the ticket codes. These correspond to various fare classes which will allow travel in various cabin classes. These codes vary from airline to airline, but usually C and D both allow travel in the business class cabin, but C class is usually for unrestricted, full price business class tickets, whereas D is for cheaper business class tickets that come with restrictions. Similarly Y is usually full price economy, and V, N, L, etc are various discounted economy class tickets. F First. A discounted First.

If you are determined to maximise your FrequentFlyer miles, go back to Expedia. If you click on the "one or more legs" under the symbol for each airline, you can build up your trip via a stop off point, which may yield more miles.

If you are trying the trick of taking very full flights looking for upgrades, try going to Airlines on the web which lists the booking classes, however you need some expertise to work out the output. The list of letters and numbers lists the ticket bucket, and the number of seats left in the bucket. F0 means that there are no First seats left, while C9 means business is wide open (9 is the maximum number that can be displayed).

It can be a lot cheaper booking a UK carrier from a starting point that is not the UK. For example BA First Class fares are ridiculously cheap if you start in Lybia (a First class return to SYD from TIP via LHR will cost about 1600), and still good value if you start in Sweden or Portugal. True, to get these fares you have to fly to your starting point, then turn round and come back again, however you can have a really long stop over at LHR if you want to, before starting your journey for real. There are some tools to find the best fares, however they can be very complicated.

Finally, look at when the airlines release their latest batch of cheap tickets. These are listed on the pages for each airline. It can sometimes be worth waiting for the batche to be released onto their ebooking system. This can sometimes yield very cheap tickets, but you may have to wait until 3am to book them.

Note that all advice is offered soley for infomation, and is just at my judgement. No legal liability is accepted if you take my advice.

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