When sourcing cheap flights to London, spending some time researching your options is usually worth it in terms of saving you money. London won’t be kind on your purse or wallet, so the more you can keep hold of prior to your arrival the better. Contrary to what you might think, the budget airlines are not always the cheapest option so make sure you check out the below tips before checking in.
Use the Price Comparison Sites
As always, the price comparison sites are a good place to start, especially if you have firm dates in mind. These so-called ‘screenscrapers’ specialise in getting you the information you need easily and quickly using sophisticated computer programs. On the downside, comparison sites might not have access to all the best deals and may not cover all airlines and travel agents. Even if you use no other source, make sure you use more than one comparison site to increase the likelihood of finding a killer deal.
Of these, Dohop and Momondo are among the best for prices; Skyscanner is also good on price and is one of the quickest and easiest meta-search engines to use. Travelsupermarket covers a broad spectrum of airlines and Kayak is packed with useful filters and other custom features. Fly.com is another good source, but it does tend to litter your screen with separate windows from each website visited.
Try Flight Brokers
Flight brokers are another avenue worth exploring because they can source exclusive deals not available to the price comparison sites. If you also need to book a hotel in London, the flight brokers often have special package deals that can save you a lot of money. Better still, recent legislation has enforced the provision of ATOL protection for customers who use a broker to book a flight and a hotel together.
Check Out Charter Flights
Charter flights are provided by Tour Operators who lease planes from specialised charter airlines (e.g. Omni Air) or airlines that offer charter services such as Monarch, Air France or Air Japan. They are generally put on in the busy summer months and the airlines have a vested interest in selling the seats to avoid flying below capacity. This means that prices will plummet in the last couple of days before departure, giving the savvy cheap flight hunter an opportunity to make significant savings. Charter flights into London use Luton and Gatwick airports and it is usually best to check the low-cost sections of the charter airlines directly. Going down the charter flights route is only really suitable for those who are very flexible with their travel dates as there is no guarantee that a flight will be available at the time you want to travel.
To explore the deals currently available at Monarch, visit their UK site and then select the site for the country you are travelling from. On rare occasions it can even be more economical to buy a full package deal but not stay in the allotted hotel.
More Useful Search Tools
Flightchecker from MoneySavingExpert enables you to select your budget and then check if any flights are available within those parameters. You can either specify your precise dates for travel or pick a loose range. Flightchecker even gives you the option to include common extras such as baggage and credit card charges that can trip up the inexperienced traveller. Using this tool, you may find that by moving your trip one day either side of your planned departure date you could get that flight reduced by up to £100.
Kayak’s Price Trend feature displays a graph that suggests when it is best to buy a ticket and when it might be better to hold fire. There are lots of other interesting tools on this site such as bar charts with sliders for selecting cheap take-off times and a Fee Calculator for card and baggage fees. In addition, you can download the Kayak travel app to your iPhone or Android device.
Save on Luggage Charges
Be careful not to base your calculations purely on face ticket price. The budget airlines, RyanAir in particular, are notorious for stinging passengers with various charges and baggage costs are one of those hidden extras that are often a source of shock for the uninitiated.
In general, hand luggage of up to 10kg will be fine and you can happily board with no charges to pay, but some airlines (e.g. Thomson) only have a 5kg allowance. Size is also an important consideration: a case measuring 55x40x20cm will generally pass through most gates but Wizz Air, for example, will charge you for anything over 42x32x25cm.
If you are going to need to place luggage in the hold, fees vary widely by airline, route, season and length of flight. It is also usually significantly cheaper to book your luggage in online rather than wait until you reach the check-in or gate. To manage the weight of your luggage, consider investing in some baggage scales of your own and opting for soft suitcases.
Be Clever with Extras
Even after you’ve made provision for your luggage, there are still a raft of charges to watch out for. These include:
- Airport fees (usually included)
- Air passenger duty (usually included)
- Infant charge (usually £35 to £45 for under-2s)
- Credit card fee (weigh up protection with fees)
- Online or airport check-in fees (depends on airline but can be very expensive)
- Boarding Card reprinting (if you forget yours)
Finally, it is well worth considering packing a picnic to escape inflated food prices!