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Cars & travel.

Updated: 3 Aug 2021

How to save on flights

Get the best deal on your airfare with the right tools and some savvy forward planning.
Which?Editorial team
Booking flight 471060

Our advice guide gives you handy tips to make sure you get the best deal on your airfare. 

Covering everything from the best days to fly to avoiding pricey airline extras, read on to make sure you never pay over the odds for a flight again.

Time it right

Airfares are dynamically priced, fluctuating with demand, so it’s impossible to predict when you’ll get the best price. Instead set up price alerts so you’re notified when a fare changes. Simply click the price-alerts button on the results page of your flight search and enter your email address. For flexible dates, Kayak will let you watch upcoming weekends, a certain month, or a whole year.

Which? Travel surveys it members to find the best and worst comparison sites and online travel agents. Find out more about Which? Travel.

Be flexible

Many sites will show you a graph of the cheapest days to fly over your chosen month, with Fridays and Sundays typically the most expensive. Sometimes you can save a bundle simply by flying one day earlier. If you don’t have that luxury, consider being flexible in other ways. Momondo’s ‘anywhere’ search will find the cheapest destinations for your dates. Meanwhile Kayak’s Explore button will filter results by budget. Type in your home airport and set your top limit in pounds, keeping your dates/duration as broad or as narrow as you like.

Look for alternatives

There’s no rule that says you have to fly in and out with the same airline, or to and from the same airport for that matter. Secondary airports aren’t just blessed with shorter queues -beloved by low-cost airlines, they’re often cheaper too. Just be mindful of extra travel time and costs. For example, Girona and Reus – sometimes referred to as Barcelona North and South - are more than 60 miles from the city.

Find out more: best and worst small UK airports

Avoid airline extras

For budget flights, either pre-book your checked bags or – better still – take hand luggage only. Choosing your own seat will cost you – up to £21 each way with British Airways. But an early check-in could see you seated together at no extra cost. Just set a reminder on your phone for the minute it opens.

AirlineCheck-in bagPre-booked seatIn-flight food
Easyjet£19.99 (20kg)-£31.99 (23kg)£4.49-£14.49 (extra leg room)£7
Ryanair£25 (20kg)£3-£20 (extra leg room + priority boarding)£10
British Airways£20 (23kg)£10-£21 (extra leg room)£7.50
Jet2£26 (22kg)£8.50-£19 (extra leg room)£6.50
Table notes:
All prices are based on one-way flights from London to Barcelona on 4 May 2018. In-flight food is based on the mid-range price for a sandwich, crisps and soft drink, or equivalent meal deal where available. Four biggest airlines based on sample size.

Be in the know

Signing up for airline or discount-club mailing lists, like Secret Flying or Jack’s Flight Club, means you’ll never miss a bargain. Both send out bargain alerts and details on error fares, where flights are mistakenly flogged at rock-bottom prices. If the airline chooses not to honour them, you’ll get your money back.

Four steps to save on flights

In October 2017, a return to Florence with BA was £265 – departing Friday 19 January 2018 and returning Sunday 21 January. However, by following these four steps, we found alternative flights for £33 – a saving of 88%.

1. Choose your dates carefully

Avoid Friday and Sunday: Saving: £124

2. Consider a different airport

Click 'add nearby airports' in the search box: Saving: £51

3. Ditch the carry-on luggage

Travel with hand luggage only: Saving: £50

4. Set up price alerts

You'll receive an email if the fare drops: Saving: £7