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Cheap Flights

Looking for a cheap flights? Use the information and links below to find cheap scheduled, charter, budget and last minute flights.

The internet is a great place to book cheap flights. You can quickly compare prices of no-frills, charter and scheduled flights, then make the decision that's right for you.

But the best price on your cheap flights is not the end of the story. We'll tell you what to look out for and about some hidden costs. For example, one low cost airline advertising flights to Copenhagen in Denmark actually flies you to Malmo airport in Sweden.

So read on, and then click on the links to find your cheap flights.

Where to find cheap flights

The consolidators and cheap flights specialists generally offer the cheapest flights, but a group of airlines, including BA, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Iberia, have joined together to offer cheaper flights via the Opodo web site (see below) to compete with them.

The airlines themselves sometimes offer cheap flights direct to the public - British Airways, Air France and KLM are worth a quick look, especially during quieter times of the year or if you're travelling within Europe or to New York.

One quick note before we get started looking for those elusive cheap flights - make sure you compare the price of flights including taxes. Opodo quote prices including taxes, all of the others quote pre-tax fares, adding the taxes later in the process. Why? We don't know. But make sure you are comparing the bottom line post tax-prices.

If you want a cheap scheduled flight, check the top 5. If you have more time and / or want a cheap charter flight, check the others too.

Start with a fares comparison website (or aggregator) - we like OpenJet or TravelJungle - to speed up your search. With these you enter your dates once and they compare prices across a range of airlines and websites. But bear in mind that these don't pick up every fare, and they don't include all of the companies we have included below. They do give you a good target to aim at though.

Then go to ebookers - the online store for a 'pre-dot com' telephone based cheap flights specialist - Flightbookers. The website's best feature is the cheap flights search, which is why they are a top pick. They also offer holidays, hotels, car hire and even last minute cruises, if you need anything else.

Opodo - is the web site set up by a number of leading European airlines to sell their cheap seats direct, rather than through the other sites listed here. On the home page, 'Opodo Offers' gives you a target for certain destinations and the quick search lives up to its name.

Note: remember that Opodo quote cheap flights fares including taxes very early on in the process (the 'offers' prices quoted include taxes). None of the other search engines do this, so be sure you are comparing like with like, post-tax with post-tax.

Expedia (uk) - this website gets around one million visitors a month, making expedia one of the UK's biggest online travel companies. As you would expect, it is a very good site that's always worth a look when searching for cheap flights, especially if you want a hotel too (or cheap flights, a hotel and a car). If you book a hotel and flight 'package' with expedia it can work out 20 - 30% cheaper than the cheapest prices elsewhere. They are great for packaged deals.

(But don't buy expedias insurance - which is automatically added into the quote; you have to unclick a box to exclude it. It's up to 4 times more expensive than those on our travel insurance page. Click 'already have insurance' and buy elsewhere - see our travel insurance page).

OTC - are great for long haul flights, especially to America. A favourite of regular travellers and it's easy to see why, they have a quick cheap flights search engine and some excellent prices. As with Expedia, if you need a hotel, check their city breaks section, where you can add a flight and hotel and get a discount on both.

Lastminute.com - are always worth a look if you want flights to a popular destination. A bit hit and miss though, sometimes you find great deals, sometimes you waste 5 minutes of your time.

Skydeals - is owned by Thomson Holidays, this website has a fast and efficient flights search. You can search for flights by airline or by price and the search will give results for both scheduled and charter airlines.

Travelocity - uses the SABRE reservation system used by traditional offline travel agents to search for cheap flights. It's 'Best Fare Finder' tool is great, and its 'Fare Watcher' is also a useful, if addictive, tool.

About cheap scheduled flights
(For cheap 'no frills' flights, see the separate section below).

To get the cheap scheduled flights, our best advice is to shop around and be flexible. Here we give you some advice and tips on how to get cheap flights, together with details on the best web sites to use when looking for cheap flights.

How to book cheap flights

  1. Always search on more than one site for your cheap flights. It's not unusual for different on-line flight bookers to have very different prices for tickets on the same flight - or for Opodo to be cheaper than Air France (who part own Opodo!).
  2. It's usually cheaper to book flights as far ahead as possible. There are sometimes last minute cheap flights bargains (and if you're looking for these, see our last minute page too), but the cheapest fares usually sell out weeks before departure.
  3. If the search engine allows it, use a 'city' in your departure and destination airport locations - such as 'London' and 'New York'. This provides the widest selection of flights and gives you the best chance of getting a bargain.
  4. Price versus Location - when tempted by a low flight price, check to see where the destination airport is. Many of the low cost airlines fly into smaller airports, which can mean a long and costly journey from the airport to where you really want to be. You may be better off paying a little more so you can arrive at an airport that is closer to your destination.
  5. Flights on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday usually attract a weekend supplement. Avoid these days if at all possible. Skyscanner will create a bar chart showing on which days flights are most expensive, if you have some time to kill!
  6. If your trip includes a Saturday night, you will be classified as a 'leisure' traveller, which will significantly reduce the cost of your tickets. Increasingly airlines are removing this stipulation (which some travel agents would use 'back-to-back' tickets to get around), but adding a Saturday night can make a significant difference to some fares.
  7. If you are only travelling one-way, check the return fares too. As in point 6 above, include a Saturday night to get the cheapest flights.
  8. Try to be flexible and check prices a day or two either side of your preferred dates.
  9. Check the cost of a 'flight plus hotel' package from an online travel agent whether you need a hotel or not. This is another 'leisure travellers' type thing; during certain times of the year and for certain destinations (particularly long haul flights) it can be cheaper to book a flight and hotel package than it is to book flight-only.
  10. It's also quite common for airlines to offer special prices for fares including a stop over at their principal hub (especially if you book your hotels via the airline). Flights to the Australia via Singapore Airlines can be significantly cheaper if you break you fight with a couple of days in Singapore, for example.
  11. Tickets to America are usually cheaper Monday to Thursday. Flights to Europe they are usually cheaper Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Try to avoid the busiest times of the day.
  12. Compare fares on all airlines flying the route you want. If, for example, easyJet or BA have a special promotion to Paris, other airlines flying this the route will usually reduce their tickets to a similar level. If you can't get the promotional fare, look at prices with other airlines flying the route. The Which Budget or the website of airport(s) you want to fly from will tell you who flies the route.
  13. Read the terms and conditions of the ticket before you buy. Most cheap flight tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable.
  14. If you are taking a short break, don't forget to take out travel insurance. For a weekend in Europe it's no more then the cost of a coffee from Starbucks (see our travel insurance page). Travelling without insurance could cost a lot more.

About budget airlines and 'no frills' cheap flights

The 'budget' or 'no frills' airlines operating in the UK are based on a successful US budget airline called Southwest - the only US airline to be profitable every year over 30 years.

Anyone flying on a budget airline for the first time is in for a bit of a culture shock. Budget airlines are able to offer cheap flights because they have cut costs to the bone. There are no tickets, no in-flight meals, you may have to walk across the tarmac to get to your plane, many don't fly to a city's main airport, they have a variable reputation on timeliness and some even don't even allocate seats.

But they are CHEAP. Or they can be cheap, if you can be flexible on flight times and especially if you can fly midweek or early and late in the day.

How to get cheap flights from budget airlines:

  1. Use a no frills fares comparison website (or aggregator) like OpenJet or TravelJungle to speed up the search and give you a target to aim at. Bear in mind that these don't always pick up every fare and don't include all of the companies we have included above and below, but they do give you a target fare to aim at as you continue to search for the cheapest flight.
  2. Be aware that the 99p or even 'free' flight deals advertised in the press are usually for a limited number of seats on a limited number of flights - often no more than 10% on the least popular flight times of the day. Also, they may not include airport taxes. Book these cheap flight deals early to avoid disappointment - the best seats usually go in hours.
  3. It's worth registering for the airlines' cheap flights e-mail alerts, to get the first news of special offers.
  4. The cheapest flights tend to be the earliest and latest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you can, avoid bank holidays, weekends, Christmas and Easter.
  5. Whether you're flying 'peak' or 'off peak', the cheapest flights are usually booked up well in advance. Try to book your flights at least a month before departure.
  6. No frills airlines price their seats according to demand, so the more popular flights become progressively more expensive as demand increases. Occasionally you will get a last minute bargain, but most flights fill up as it gets nearer to their departure date, and the prices rise accordingly.
  7. Try to be flexible - check fares a day or so either side of your preferred travelling dates.
  8. Book online to save up to £2.50 per flight leg. The websites of easyJet and Ryanair also show the lowest possible fares or have a bargains section, giving you a target fare to aim at. But be aware that the online booking engines do not add airport taxes onto the price until quite late in the process, which adds £10 - 20 per ticket to initial quotes. Look at the bottom line before you give your credit card details.
  9. Know exactly where you're flying to and factor any hidden costs into your buying decision. The budget airlines often reduce their costs (and therefore your fare) by flying to smaller airports. For example, both Ryanair and easyJet fly to Bologna in Italy. But ryanair fly to Forli, which is 37 miles from the city centre, whereas easyJet fly to the main Bologna airport, just 4 miles from the city centre.
  10. Check fares at consolidators, charter airlines and with the more traditional 'with frills' airlines, as they have bargains too (we have links above and below this section). One of the 1st Holiday Store.co.uk team recently saved over a hundred pounds per person on flights to Dublin by flying with BMI rather than a budget airline.
  11. Be aware that no frills airlines don't offer discounts for children, so they pay the same fares as adults.
  12. Tickets can be less flexible than on traditional airlines. If you need to change your booking, easyJet levy a £10 fee plus the difference in the ticket price between when you booked and when you make the change! Ryanair have different pricing bands for their tickets - ranging from fully refundable to completely inflexible.
  13. If you are taking a short break - even just a couple of days - don't forget to take out travel insurance. It won't cost very much, but travelling without it could cost a lot more (see our travel insurance page).
  14. Check baggage allowances carefully. Ryanair has an allowance of just 15kg last year, with charges of £3.75 per kilo for excess baggage. And it's rumoured that budget airlines may even reduce the baggage allowance to zero - charging for all luggage in the hold.
  15. If you can, look at budget airlines operating from smaller airports - bmibaby, flybmi, flybe and jet2 are amongst a growing army of smaller budget airlines offering cheap flights to a limited number of destinations from regional airports. (For a more complete list of budget airline contact details click on this budget airlines link)

About cheap charter flights
If you are flying to a popular holiday destination, particularly in the summer, you can sometimes get cheap flights fare on a charter airline. As package holidaymakers are well aware, these airlines do not always take off on time, so factor this into your price comparisons. But they are certainly worth a look.

As mentioned above, skydeals, Telme and OpenJet include charter airline flights within their standard searches. Other places to look for cheap flights include the airlines themselves - First Choice , Monarch airlines and avro - and the online travel agents TravelSelect, Travelcareonline and Bargain Holidays.

One final word. It's essential that the travel agent is IATA or ATOL bonded.

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