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For the upcoming travel season in October, it’s a good time for travellers to start looking for flight tickets if they are going abroad. Planning in advance can help you get the best rates and the current offers on credit cards can further lower your prices. “The current offers on credit cards offer the best deals for those who plan to fly in the September-October holiday season,” says Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) at Yatra.com. Several online travel agencies (OTAs) have partnered card issuers to offer cashback on bookings. Cleartrip is running an offer with HSBC. HDFC Bank has tied up with Goibibo, Makemytrip, Yatra and Musafir. Check the discounts offered with OTAs. Opt for transacting through their apps. They offer loyalty points when you sign up with them and download the app. These loyalty points or virtual cash can help bring down the ticket cost further. While OTAs offer the best deal, they don’t offer the concessions that airlines run. If you are a senior citizen, defence personnel or a student, many airlines offer discounts on base fares. This is not available with the OTAs. A flier should, therefore, compare whether the tickets are cheaper after discounts with an OTA or with a travel concession from an airline. If the discounts offered on the OTAs are not applicable to you, book directly with the airline.
It saves the additional convenience fees that online websites charge. Also, when cancelling the ticket, you pay double the cancellation fees — to the airline as well as to the portal if you book with an OTA.If you are booking return tickets, you get higher discounts. But many don’t allow travellers to take such discounts more than once during the promotion. If you are taking a multi-destination trip, use multiple OTAs to book on different routes to avail their offers. The fares in travel season are always higher no matter how early you book. If you are flying from Mumbai to Kolkata in October, the average fare is between Rs 5,500 and Rs 6,000. But you can fly the same route for Rs 3,300 in August. “Airlines use historical data to understand demand during peak travel season. If the historical data shows constant higher demand on certain routes, airlines price those higher,” says Chetan Kapoor, research analyst–Asia Pacific, Phocuswright. Travellers are always confused about when to book tickets. It is a function of the routes. But for international flights, they should book at least 45 days in advance to get the best rates. “For domestic travel, the fares trend only upwards three weeks before a flight,” says Berty Thomas, a business analyst with a multinational bank, who also runs Unfare.in. The website predicts airfare movements. In the domestic sector, it makes sense to book tickets between four to six weeks in advance. “Many travellers end up paying higher fares if they book too much in advance on high demand sectors such as Mumbai-Bengaluru, Delhi-Chennai, and so on,” says Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and CEO Ixigo.com. One can, therefore, use flight rates alerts available on many websites. For international flights, Bajpai suggests that travellers use websites that show results from airlines’ websites and OTAs. “The trend internationally is that airlines are selling cheaper tickets than travel portals. The latter also doesn’t show results from low-cost airlines, which can save a lot,” Bajpai suggests.