When I flew to Australia last month I had booked my flight in September. I felt I had got a good deal as I booked with Thai Airways during a sale offer. I was pleased with the price I got.
Since I booked I noticed that other companies had a number of sales so it is possible I could have got a cheaper deal.
So when do you book?
How long is a piece of string?!
Many blogs I have read suggest booking almost as soon as the flight is released – is about 11 months before flying. I am not sure if this is for rewards flights – paid with airline points or for paid with cash flights. However, I am really not convinced that this is the best strategy for paid with cash flights unless you are reserving a space with a ticket that can be cancelled. It seems to me that you need to take a punt and book in a sale. But which one and when?
Booking a sale price – and changing your mind
The problem with sale prices is that they have lock in clauses. Usually you are billed immediately on booking and cannot change the flight without cost. So in essence you are committed and cannot change your mind.
The exact timing of a sale and which airlines offer sales is variable. It seems they offer sale prices around the same time but never at exactly the same time so you cannot really compare, and book, one airline’s sale prices to another’s.
What about upgrade offers?
Once you have booked your tickets what then? I recently received a reduced points upgrade offer. It is on the airline’s website and is a shortlived offer for a few days only. I have no idea of the award availability so decided to snap up an upgrade to Emirates first simply because I had the points and like the offer. I should, perhaps, have looked at the costs and decided if spending my points had value. Interestingly because I had booked and paid for the original flights through a travel agent, again at a time of an offer, I was unable to upgrade the flight with cash on the airline’s website. It seemed OK, however, to upgrade with points with this offer. I thus had no way to compare upgrade costs. I went for it and am looking forward to Emirates First and a shower in the sky!
But again, the whole thing seems predicable and is pot luck.
As I commented about hotel booking, a good airline deal is a lottery and a mug’s game. I suppose there are some predictable times when airlines have sales but it by no means certain and I can see no way of predicting if and when they are going to offer points upgrade deals.
So look out for a sale. Decide if the offer looks attractive on an airline you want to fly and book. Accept it and grimace when you see a better offer with another airline a few days/weeks later. Hey that’s the way of it.
But grab an upgrade (especially to first) if offered and you have the points.
That will be my policy anyway!