Many people taking an extensive holiday overseas make the classic mistake of buying a cheap airfare on the internet, then try to make the itinerary fit it – often by buying additional airfares or lots of backtracking. NO. NO. NO.
The Golden Rule of travel should be to decide on your itinerary, and then get someone who knows what they are doing (travel agent airfares expert) to compose an airfare which will best suit that itinerary. You will normally save lots of money and needless loss of time.
If you are making a simple return flight to a destination, then you will save maybe $50 by booking yourself online on one of the OTAs. However, if your holiday involves an extensive itinerary, then find a travel agent who knows airfares and let them do it – that’s what I do, and I do know a bit about airfares. But I also know that my detailed knowledge of airfares which was once excellent is no longer fully up-to-date.
For those who may doubt my words, here are 3 recent examples from the many that I run into regularly – then you be the judge.
Example 1. This one was told to me by a travel agent friend. A client comes into his office and tells him that he has bought cheap return tickets from Brisbane to Honolulu for himself and his wife on an OTA – Skyscanner. He now wants the agent to book them Honolulu to Los Angeles return, as they want to go there as well.
WRONG. The second ticket costs almost as much as the first and this is not the way to do it. The agent tells the client that the fare should have been booked as a return flight to Los Angeles with a stopover in Honolulu – all on the one ticket. That would have saved the client around $200 per person compared with two separate tickets. But too late now.
Lesson: Buying a cheap fare and adding extra flights is very rarely the best way to go in spite of what some so called “ travel experts” say.
Example 2: I was approached by a lady seeking some advice after I had made a travel presentation to a group at a leisure centre. She and her husband had booked a return flight on the internet from Sydney into Copenhagen, and back out of Venice. They were taking a cruise out of Copenhagen, and then travelling around Europe for 8 weeks finishing up in Venice. But they also want to go to Athens to see his relations, and wanted to know how to fit it in.
WRONG. They now have the problem, wasted time, and extra expense of having to get to Greece and then back to Venice for their return flight. I could see at least another $400 in airfares per person, plus wasted time in and out of airports. So what should they have done?
The simple answer is to have flown into Copenhagen and out of Athens, and it could have been done for the same price on the same carrier. Then all they needed was to add a one way fare from a city in Europe to Athens, or even catch a ferry from Italy to Greece.
Lesson: Look at your whole itinerary before jumping in and buying a cheap airfare.
Example 3: This one is a perfect example of what I am saying, and something which occurred to some of my clients a few months ago. By making the wrong decisions, it cost each of the four travellers in excess of $550 per person. Here is their tale of woe.
John approached me about organizing some 4-star accommodation in St Petersburg and Moscow, as well as the interconnecting high speed train for himself and 3 adult family members – simple it seemed .
John had already bought 4 cheap return fares on Emirates on the internet from Sydney to St Petersburg. But they were also attending a wedding in Riga, Latvia, so needed 2 extra flights – Moscow to Riga and Riga to St Petersburg to meet the return flight Emirates flight. This was all WRONG for several reasons.
Firstly by returning to Russia the travellers needed a double entry Russian visa – $300pp instead of $150pp – ouch! But on top of that they needed two extra flights – Moscow to Riga and Riga to St Petersburg at an additional cost of around $400pp – ouch!
So what should they have done? They should have flown into Riga, then flown to St Petersburg, and returned to Sydney out of Moscow. They would have saved $150 on the visa and $200 on an airfare not to mention less hassle with airports. But too late as they had bought non-refundable tickets from an OTA.
Finally all was booked and visas issued and then suddenly disaster struck. Two weeks before they were due to leave, Emirates cancelled the flight out of St Petersburg and booked them on the following day. DISASTER! They would now need to have the Russian visas reissued at a cost of $300pp once again, and an extra night’s accommodation in St Petersburg – about $100pp. John was livid with the airline and in a dilemma.
I advised him to contact the OTA agent from whom he bought the ticket and ask them to speak to the airline. But he had bought through an agency in Japan as they were the cheapest that came up on TripAdvisor, and the agency staff had very poor English. It was $40 per ticket cheaper than buying through Aussie travel agent, but now he had the hassle of trying to sort it all himself……
After long telephone delays he finally spoke to Emirates, but the only solution they offered was to fly them out of Moscow instead of St Petersburg on same day as the cancelled flight. I advised him to accept the offer as it would save $300pp visa reissue fee, and $100 for accommodation. However, he lost the Riga to St Petersburg ticket cost, and had to buy new tickets Riga to Moscow. So he was out of pocket another $200pp for the new tickets.
Lesson : If John had arranged the airfare correctly, he would have saved the additional cost of $550 per person, and all the hassles and stress that he went through.
Conclusion: If you are doing more than a simple return flight, and have a more extensive itinerary, then find a travel agent who is an expert on airfares (they are around) and let them compose the airfare to fit your itinerary. It will be well worth it and they will save you money and take all the responsibility. Rush in and buy a cheap fare without fully considering the itinerary, and you have a 90% chance of paying considerably more, not to mention hassle of possible backtracking and/or even more time in the dreaded airports!!