If you can be flexible on dates and times, your flights will probably be cheaper. Flights are also likely to be cheaper the sooner you book. However, this may not always be the case with package holidays.
Be aware of airlines that use the 24 hour clock when showing available flights. You may want to travel at 2.30pm rather than 02:30am.
It is important to shop around to get the best deal on flights. Consider the extra charges that airlines may add to the headline price for baggage and meals. With so much choice, it can be difficult to decide which is the best flight for you. You can look at what airlines fly from the airport nearest to you by visiting airport websites or price comparison sites. Some airlines do not appear on price comparison websites so you may need to visit individual airline sites to view their flights.
Some airlines offer loyalty schemes for frequent flyers or use promotional codes for discounts so look out for them.
Double-check the dates and times you want to book, and double-check the names you are booking in are exactly the same as on the passenger's passport. It will usually cost to change the names on tickets, and the times and dates of flights. Keep an eye out for, and read carefully, text messages and emails from the airline as these may let you know schedule changes which could affect your journey.
If the flights you are booking involve a connection between the legs of your flight, there are some things you should bear in mind.
- Are your flights booked with the same airline on the same ticket? If so, and you miss your connection, the airline may book you onto a later flight. This may not happen if the connecting flights are not on the same ticket.
- Check whether your connections are at the same airport. For example, there are at least five airports local to London but getting between them can take some time.
- Have you left enough time between flights for your baggage to be moved onto the later flight? If your flights are with different airlines, you may have to retrieve your baggage from one flight and check-in with the later flight.
- Do you need to add in time to get through immigration and customs between flights?
Airline alliances and Code share
Airline alliances are agreements between airlines which allow them to co-ordinate schedules and to collaborate on fares and marketing. They enable passengers to book one ticket which covers their flights with multiple airlines.
A code share is when tickets to one flight are sold by two or more airlines. The flight will have more than one flight code depending on who is operating it and who sold the ticket.
You should be made aware when you buy a ticket that your flight will be operated by another airline. This is important for a number of reasons, not least because you need to check in with the airline that is operating the flight, which may be different to the one that sold you the ticket.
Buying a ticket for a flight operated as a code share can affect which rights you have in cases of delays and cancellations. You can read more about your rights in the UK following a flight disruption.
In addition, you will need to know whose terms and conditions apply when you are travelling, the airline you booked with or the airline that is carrying you. You will need to know this as for example, the baggage allowance may vary. Ask your agent or airline before you book.
If you have booked to travel with a global airline, their website may have details of who they code share with.
When booking flights, consider the following:
- Check before you book if the airline you are booking with is the airline you are flying with. This should be advised to you on the website or by your agent
- If you are going to be carried by another airline, check what the differences will be:
Will you receive the same leg room?
Will your baggage allowance change?
Whose terms and conditions will apply when you travel?
Who will you need to contact if you need to make any amendments or changes to your tickets?
- Be aware that on journeys outside of Europe, you generally have more rights when there are delays and cancellations if you are flying with a European airline
Using a credit card
Some airlines may charge more to accept payment on a credit card, but using a credit card when flights cost more than £100 each does give you some important protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. If things go wrong and if the airline is at fault, the credit card company shares legal responsibility with the airline. This means the consumer also has a claim against the credit card company for any losses. It should also mean you can claim for airline failure against the credit card company. You can refer disputes to the Financial Ombudsman if the credit card company disputes your claim.
If you have paid for your flights with a VISA debit card, and the airline is at fault, you can try to make a claim from VISA, called a chargeback, to get a refund of the cost of the flights.
Consumer Credit Act 1974 and travel agents
Section 75 protection may not apply to situations where you have paid a travel agent for services provided by another company: for example, if you pay the travel agent for hotel rooms provided by a hotel. In these situations it is worth talking to your credit card company, but you may need to rely on your travel insurance as the law in this area is not clear.
Checking Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions are attached to almost everything; invoices, press advertisements, credit cards and bills, just to name a few.
When you book your flights for your holiday or business trip, your terms and conditions will outline your obligations and the airline’s obligations, and you agree to abide by them when you purchase your ticket.
Things to consider before booking your holiday
- Check in arrangements
- Baggage allowance
- Your rights if you are delayed or the flight is cancelled
- The process for cancelling or amending your booking
- Does the fare include all taxes, fees and charges?
- What happens if you miss your flight?
- What does the airline do with your personal information?
Information from the airline on these issues is often buried in the terms and conditions and what you are looking for will not always be easy to find. The terms and conditions will not necessarily give you all the information you need as much of it may be set out elsewhere on the website.