Here’s how you can save time and find a real bargain when buying airline tickets online
It is worth mentioning that a lot of tourists worldwide still buy air tickets in the old fashioned way – at specialized airline ticket offices. At the same time, the purchase of flights can be carried out without leaving your computer or workplace throughout the civilized world. Come on, it’s the 21st century. You just need to choose your dates and pay for the ticket.
Where to start
Maybe it sounds corny, but firstly, if you want to purchase a ticket online, you need to own a bank card (whether debit or credit). Moreover, this card has to be authorized for online payments. You should also check out the spending limit for day/week/month, and if your card’s limit is set, let’s say, at the $150 mark, then you should expand it (the sum depends on the price of the ticket you are going to buy), or disable the limit (it is not the most preferable way to make it right, but sometimes online banks work like this).
Of course, if you plan to make purchases not only on the websites of your domestic airlines, a basic level of English will come in handy. Moreover, ask your bank’s customer service whether it may be problematic to use your type of card to pay at foreign sites in different currencies (you have to know all possible pitfalls and tricks). And last but not least, don’t be afraid. There is a similar algorithm for any ticket site, and it is very clear: choose the flight, enter your data, confirm the payment, check-in, and away we go.
Search for airline tickets
So, let’s suppose you already have a bank card with the necessary balance of funds on your account, it is fully functional and ready for online payments. Now you have to determine your departure date. Here you’ve got a couple of options. First, if it is a business trip, or you are strictly tied to a specific date (for example, you’ve booked a hotel room), then you will need to stick to the precise date. Therefore, you will choose the ticket among all those available on that date. Otherwise, if you are not in a hurry, or plan to go somewhere in a few months time, you can choose the cheapest ticket (or the one with the most preferable departure/arrival time).
Now you are ready for the next step – you need to search for a ticket. Here you have a couple of options as well. On the one hand, you can use a flight search engine. In a nutshell, it is a site/app that searches a ticket for you drawing on the parameters you’ve entered, and going through all (or almost all) flight companies’ site options. Therefore, it will show you all the options it has found, and you will be free to use any of the possible variants.
Note: Search engines do not sell tickets, they just direct you to the site of the company you’ve chosen. Do not purchase tickets from engines that propose you buy from them. What’s more, never use third-party resellers, since they always have higher prices (it’s their fee for the search service). Buying from official airline companies’ sites guarantees that you’ll pay the lowest possible price, and, more importantly, you’ll not be cheated.
On the other hand, you can buy straight from sites of airline companies, but it may take some time if you are not an experienced tourist, meaning you have to know some companies, their price policies, available destinations, etc.
We can recommend a selection of decent search engines, such as:
- Skyscanner (or download the app)
- AirFare Watchdog
- Google Flights
Nevertheless, you should remember that sometimes search engines might have slightly inflated ticket prices (as part of taking a cut from the airlines), and prices can differ from site to site. So, if you have opted to use a flight search engine, then don’t be lazy, and compare prices and options from different engines (at least three of them, but you know, the more the better).
How to actually buy airline tickets
Let’s consider you have decided to use a search engine. We’ve chosen Skyscanner (but you can opt for any site you want).
- Here you see that the site asks you to make a decision about arrival and departure destinations, preferable departure date, class (economy, premium, business, etc.), and whether it will be return (both sides) or a one way (just a flight to your destination) ticket. We’ve chosen a one-way ticket.
- The site will show you different options, and you can arrange them the way you want (for example, from cheap to expensive).
- Then you choose the option you like the most, and go straight to a website.
Here you see different variants, but you should choose the first one (eurowings), since it is an airline company’s website. All other options seem to be third-party resellers, which can be clearly seen based on the prices they offer (it is always a higher price than the original company can offer).
- Then, you will be redirected to the site.
- Now, you’ll have to confirm your purchase and pay for the ticket.
Then, you’ll have to fill in your personal data (name, passport details, etc.), and choose any extra services (extra luggage, meals, etc.) if you need them. Basically, almost all sites have a similar payment process. The site will ask you the way you want to pay, and the type of payment system you use (Visa, MasterCard, etc.).
- Now, you will pay with your card, and this process will not be much different from ordinary online shopping. Just remember to double-check all the details and personal data (especially name and passport information, since they are the most vital data).
We also recommend you to check what low-cost airlines offer. It is a good option especially when it comes to flights with just hand luggage. Check for Southwest Airlines (USA), Ryanair and Wizz Air (Europe). Such companies usually offer low prices or great discounts, thus you can purchase a ticket, let’s say from Krakow (Poland) to Eindhoven (Netherlands) for just €25-30.
Nevertheless, there are some issues, related to low-cost flights. First, cheap tickets are not available on every date, therefore, this is not the best option if you are tied to a specific date (as we’ve mentioned above). However, you can try the next cheapest option. There is a great chance that it still will be cheaper (than other “not low-cost” airlines). Second, the cheapest prices usually apply to limited hand luggage conditions only. If the size of your bag exceeds the established standard dimensions, then you’ll have to pay more. Cabin luggage will also be paid (and the sooner you pay, the less the price it will cost), so eventually, the “low-cost” ticket price can increase from €40 to €80-€90. This is where you can consider other options and check what other companies offer.
How to buy airline tickets for someone else
Sometimes people wonder: how to buy airline tickets online for someone else? Yes, there are situations when someone is unavailable, or doesn’t have access to their credit cards and whatnot. So, you want to help and buy an airline ticket for someone else. Basically, the process is quite similar to the one we’ve described above (in the “How to actually but a ticket” section), the only difference is that you need to fill in the personal data of the passenger that will be using that ticket.
Issues and pitfalls
First of all, make sure that the payment of your ticket has been successful: in this case, an amount equal to the price of the ticket will be blocked on your card, and the e-ticket will be sent to the e-mail address that you indicated when you booked the ticket. By and large, there is no need to print it out. Showing a passport is normally enough for registration, or you can show your electronic version of a ticket. However, some airports in some countries require the printed version of a ticket so they can stamp it. But we would recommend keeping a printout with you, just in case (your battery went dead, database issues, etc.).
Also, when buying tickets, you should always pay attention to the booking conditions. For instance, most economy class offers do not provide ticket refund or change of departure date options (this is particularly true for low-cost flights and the cheapest deals), so in case of force majeure, you’ll just lose your money and your tickets will not be refunded (even partially).