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Read any travel hacking/miles and points blog, and you will find some amazing fares highlighted by the writers. The question is – how do we find them!? Spend our days constantly searching for flights? An elaborate spy network of international travel agents? Friends in high places 😉 ? No – the answer is using the amazingly powerful tools and websites that are open to everyone! The purpose of this article is to guide you through one of the most popular and user friendly – Skyscanner, so you too can grab a great fare on your next flight.
Skyscanner does as the name suggests, it scans the internet for flight options – it’s a comparison site for flights. This saves you the impossible task of checking every airline and travel agent’s website that flies that route to find the best price.
At it’s most basic level, it offers you a nice user friendly way to input your route, chosen dates, number of passengers and class, then returns you a variety of results.
Where it’s real power comes in, is some of the more advanced features – the easiest way to demonstrate this will be to use worked examples.
There are generally three different ways to use the site:
- You have some fixed dates and a destination in mind and want to find the best deal
- You have some dates in mind, but haven’t chosen a destination
- You have a destination in mind, but are flexible on dates
Scenario 1: Fixed dates and destination – I want the best deal
This is likely to be the most common scenario, especially for families who need to travel during school holidays, or those travelling for work.
On the date boxes, you can select your specific dates, number of travellers and Class of travel, as in the screenshot below.
For this example, I’ve decided to take my fiancé and fictional 10 year old child away for Christmas in New York…
When selecting major destinations with multiple airports, by entering the city name, Skyscanner will give me the option of selecting either a specific airport, or all airports that serve that city. In this case, I’m happy to fly to any New York airport, so select “New York, NY (ANY)”.
Skyscanner will default to sorting results by cheapest average price per person, and includes indirect flights unless you selected Direct Flights Only on the search input page. Discounts for children are factored into this average.
In this case – the cheapest option is an indirect Aer Lingus routing via DUB to JFK for £485.
For this example though, I decide that I’d rather not risk a connection so close to Christmas, and with an imaginary 10 year old in tow…
Luckily Skyscanner makes this really easy to change without having to go back to the start – I simply untick the 1 Stop and 2+ Stop options in the menu on the left to only leave direct flights. Skyscanner also helpfully shows the lowest price of these options underneath – so I know upfront the cost of a direct flight is going to be at least £525 each.
Some of the flights back from the US East Coast leave a bit late for a small child. I’d rather be on a flight back before 9pm so they can go straight to sleep on the flight rather than being woken to board. Using the “Departure Times” sliders in the menu, I can adjust my return departure time to be 21:00 at the latest.
So it turns out my “best” option that meets my increasingly complex requirements is the United flight leaving Newark at 19:30. Here’s where Skyscanner gives us some more nifty stuff – the 19:30 United flight is also operated as an Air Canada codeshare. Same time, same flight, £27 each cheaper than booking with United – and Skyscanner links you directly to the online travel agent or airline selling the fare.
Specific Date and Destination Conclusions:
So whilst not quite a bargain at £618 each, I was never expecting rock bottom prices to be travelling to a premium destination right before Christmas – that’s just a fact of life in the supply and demand world of air travel!
What I’ve hopefully demonstrated is some quick and easy ways to ensure you get the best price for the flight that most suits your needs, or how it might highlight some different options to save money, such as taking a connecting flight or an unusual codeshare, using Skyscanner.
Even the most seasoned travel hackers wouldn’t have thought about an Air Canada codeshare from New York to Manchester right?!