With Europe snowed in and Christmas fast-approaching, travel plans need to be carefully looked at for the annual year-end migration - whether home or to new lands.
Battle-weary UAE expats speed-dial their friendly neighbourhood travel agent, or simply click on to its virtual counterpart to plan for a yearly sojourn to their home countries for the festive season.
And if you are like the vast majority of vacationers who sandwich life between work, kids and snatches of sleep, then in all probability your bags are ready to be packed but you are still waiting to nab that sweet budget fare that will be the talk of your social circle when you compare notes – and let’s be honest, that is going to happen.
But wait a minute: before you think this feature is about a last-minute wakeup call to book your tickets now, you are mistaken. It’s about how you can ensure that even as you enter the last lap, you can still take home the prize by getting the best airfare deal there is.
Emirates 24|7 digs deep to ensure you fly high this season with rock bottom pricing.
Departure December 23…
After searching the best web deals for what’s available, here’s our list of major cities with the cheapest airfares, departing on Thursday, December 23 and returning on Saturday, Januarys 8.
Dubai-Mumbai on Oman Air is still available for Dh1375. The fare is available via Asiatravel.com and the airline’s own website. The advantage of the latter is more connection options.
Dubai-London Heathrow is still Travelocity, with a 12-hour stopover in Cairo at $636.
Dubai-New York is $861 on Expedia via Emirates and American Airlines, with a stopover in Amman, Jordan. At any angle, this is a sweet deal.
Dubai-Sydney is Expedia again, with Air China costing $1,835 via Beijing. The travel time is bound to be brutal though.
When to book
Farecompare.com’s CEO Rick Seaney gives an industry insider secret on his blog where he says that the best day to shop for airfares is Tuesday, about 3pm – timings differ depending out of which country the website is based of course.
Says Seaney: “Usually, when an airline wants to launch a sale, it will do so late Monday [considering the majority of the world has a Sat-Sun weekend]. When the other airlines see this, they immediately go into competitive mode, and begin lowering their own prices to match the first one's sale.
“All the airlines that plan to join in on this ‘matching’ will have completed the process by early Tuesday afternoon, so by 3 pm, shoppers will have the most ‘good prices’ to choose from.”
But remember, seats are usually limited so act fast to grab that sale price because it is highly unlikely that you would find it again on Wednesday.
When to travel
It is common knowledge that people prefer to fly on weekends, so expecting to jet out on a Thursday night flight and returning on a Saturday early evening flight is bound to be more expensive, unless you were an early bird and booked flights in advance.
Be bold and try to travel out mid-week and return on a Sunday back to our sunny shores. Putting this to the test, we checked a Dubai-Mumbai flight with departure on Thursday, December 23 with the return on Saturday, January 8. The fares on Expedia.com resulted in $371. Tweaking the dates by two days to mid-week saw the fare drop $14.
When to take a pit stop
Unless you were the early bird who made away with the cheaper direct flights, chances are that anything non-stop will now cost you a bundle. Be adventurous and look upon this as an opportunity to explore a new city, especially if you have a layover that exceeds five hours.
Travelocity.com shows you how with the cheapest Dubai-London Heathrow flight for the same above-mentioned dates costing $636 on Egyptair. While the return flight is a simple 1.5 hours layover, heading into London will cost you nearly a 12-hour stay in Cairo.
You can spend the day exploring a new city while you transit or cough up $816 for a direct flight via Virgin Atlantic. The choice is yours really.
Where to search
Ah, the meat of the matter is where to look. It is no secret that online fares are almost always lower than what a travel agent quotes you. When we rang Al Rostamani Travels to argue over the price of a Dubai-Bangkok flight that was being quoted to us nearly Dh750 higher, the agent said: “We can’t match the online fare because we are also including booking fees and commissions. If you are getting a good deal online, you are lucky.”
Multi-search portals such as Expedia, Travelocity and Asiatravel are usually your best bets for travelling to the United States, the United Kingdom and select countries in Asia. However, local search portals such as Makemytrip.ae and Cleartrip.ae offer much better connecting flights for those looking to travel in India, considering both websites have originated there.
But do remember, sometimes the search engines will flash a fare in their list but when you try to book it, it disappears. This is simply because the data hasn’t been updated in the cache. So if you find a sweet deal, do not hesitate and simply book.
Disclaimer: The website merely provides information as advertised by various websites and companies mentioned here. It takes no responsibility for validity, availability, pricing or authenticity of information.