In recent weeks, airfares in Nigeria, especially on international routes, have risen by about 60-70 per cent. Travellers on the Lagos-US route have had to cough out between N700,000 and N1 milliom to buy economy air tickets. The trend has forced some passengers to halt or cancel planned overseas trips.
But a little knowledge of how to get low or cheaper fares online could be of help to passengers even under the prevailing harsh economy and rising air fares.
Popular website, ThriftyNomads, offers some tips on how to find cheap airfares or book the cheapest possible flights to any destination.
So, here are some key tips that will save you time, frustration and, most importantly, money when booking your next flight.
Keep your searches top secret
You’re not crazy for thinking that a flight price has changed after searching it a few times in your web browser. Based on the cookies in your browser, flight prices do increase when a particular route is repeatedly searched, as the site wants to scare you into booking the flight quickly before prices get even higher. Always search for flights incognito or private browsing mode to see the lowest prices.
In Google Chrome or Safari, incognito is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”. For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”. This will open a new browser window where your information is not tracked, thus not inflating prices as you search. Note: if you’re using an older version of OS X, open Safari then click “Safari” in the menu bar, and select “Private Browsing”.
Your cookies are reset each time you re-open an incognito window. So if you want to start with a clean slate for each flight search (so your previous searches aren’t “remembered”, potentially inflating costs), close all your incognito windows, open a new one, and then perform your flight search.
Use best flight search engines
All search engines have inflated flight costs as part of taking a cut from the airlines. Some search engines consistently inflate much higher than others. It pays to familiarise yourself with sites that offer the best prices.
Finally, no single search engine is consistently perfect, though we find Skyscanner to be pretty good. As such, you may need to try a combination of search engines to ensure you’re not missing any results.
Identify the cheapest day to fly out
While many theories exist around booking specifically on a Tuesday to save money, the reality is there is no consistent truth to exactly, which days are cheapest to fly. But most of the time, it is cheaper to leave on a weekday, though this isn’t always the case. Your best strategy is to get a quick visual of prices for a whole month to see what days are cheapest for your specific route. Here’s how:
Use a travel agent
It is always better to find and keep one or two trusted travel agents whom you can fall back on when in dire need of a cheap fare. Travel agents have special undercut rates from airlines that are inaccessible to the rest of the travelling public, although sometimes this doesn’t always imply they can provide the lowest price. Therefore, the trick is better do your own research first, find the cheapest flight, and thereafter present that information to them to see if they can match or beat it by getting you something cheaper. This would be especially beneficial for long-haul flights, where even slight savings could equate to a few hundred dollars.
Don’t wait longer to book
Rarely ever do airline tickets get cheaper as your departure date approaches, especially if you need to fly on a certain or specific date. Budget airlines typically offer low rates as a baseline price, and as these tickets sell, the remaining ones increase in cost. So in these harsh times, if you know when and where you’re going, don’t wait very long. Don’t procrastinate buying your ticket. More often than not, your biggest savings come from booking far ahead when you can.
Check if it’s cheaper to pay in other currencies
Before booking a flight, consider if the rate is cheaper if paid in another currency. Most international airlines will demand that passengers pay in the currency of the country they are departing from but this isn’t always the case. An important note when doing this: make sure you’re using a credit card that is free of foreign-transaction fees, otherwise your attempts to save money doing this will be lost! Sometimes paying in the currency of the airline’s country can bring down the fare.
Search for airline error fares
Airlines sometimes make mistakes when posting their fares online, leading to seriously discounted flights. This can happen for various reasons – currency conversion mishaps, technical glitches or human error. If you’re in the know-how on where to find airline error fares, you can save yourself some serious bucks on a ticket.
Airlines commence payment of N6.5bn debt to NAMA
Strong indications emerged over the weekend that domestic airline owners have commenced the payment of debts estimated at about N6.5billion to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
Daily Sun learnt that in recent months, there had been series of meetings between top officials of the airlines and NAMA aimed at reconciling the huge debt, which is believed, had taken a heavy toll on the activities of NAMA.
It was learnt that a fortnight ago, NAMA had withdrawn its services to some of the debtor airlines in a bid to force them to come to the negotiating table.
“NAMA runs like an autonomous agency without government funding or support and there had been a lot of resistance by the debtor airlines in the last two years to pay and how do you expect the agency to run its operations as well as pay staff salaries when those they are servicing are owing and not paying?” queried an industry source.
“So NAMA had to start a debt recovery exercise. Some airlines have paid all their debts, but others have not. And there was need to wield the big stick on those found to be recalcitrant by refusing to grant them services on some routes where the passengers have options to fly other airlines,” added the source who preferred to remain anonymous.
The agency, which provides navigational aid services to airlines and aerodromes, is owed about N8 billion with the airlines accounting for the bulk of N6.5 billiion, while private and state aerodromes indebtedness stands at N1.5 billion.
Daily Sun learnt that out of the N6.5billion owed by domestic airlines, about N1.045 billion is owed by airlines that have shut down their operations, thus posing a serious challenge on the ongoing debt recovery effort.