Cheapflights.co.za offers some tips on how to get cheap flights at the last minute. Photo: Wikimedia commons
Plane tickets tend to be expensive, especially when the Rand isn’t performing well, prompting many to search for the illusive last minute deal that’s a steal. Global travel and search platform Cheapflights.co.za reveals that it’s not impossible to get a last minute deal – it may just require a bit of nail-biting daring:

Why do ticket prices fluctuate?

Airlines do vary the price of their flights for a number of reasons, but it’s mainly to do with demand. For example, ticket prices may increase as the flight becomes heavily booked, or decrease if the airline finds that booking levels are too low. 

How to get a deal
Know when a sale is on: sign up for daily alerts and newsletters. The best way to get a deal is by being the first to know it’s on offer. It can also be useful to follow your favourite airlines on social media.  The Cheapflights.co.za newsletter delivers the best local deals, tailored to your preferences and interests every week.
Be flexible in terms of your dates and airline: “Friday flights are often full (and expensive due to demand) as many people go away for the weekend. Mondays are busy as business people prefer to fly then. Our research shows Wednesdays are actually the cheapest day to fly on”, says Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of Cheapflights.co.za. 
Flying on public holidays like Christmas can also be cheaper due to a lack of demand. Always     look at competitor airlines as well, as their flights might be cheaper due to under booking. 
Consider nearby airports: you might find that flights to a big airport like Heathrow are more expensive than flying into one nearby, such as Stanstead or Luton. If your final destination is London, a good deal to another airport might be worth it, even with the additional train ticket included. 
Use your flight points when possible: most airlines offer loyalty programs, as do a number of credit card companies like Diner’s Club. Use these points to bring down the cost of a last minute flight when possible. 

While travellers can find a deal under the wire, the Cheapflights.co.za data shows that those are the exception to the rule and it might be better to plan ahead – especially if it’s necessary to travel on specific dates.

“Our research shows that it pays to plan ahead with an average expected saving of 9% to be had on flights booked one to three months prior to departure. The most significant saving (14%) can be taken advantage of when booking three to six months in advance, which 23% of travellers do, and which is also the second most popular pre-booking period”, shares Shelton. 

Only 9% of bookings happen at the last minute, which is one week in advance, with the savings on bookings one to four weeks in advance being a measly 6%. 

However, it is cheaper to book to travel to Australia, Germany and Thailand six to 12 months in advance, rather than the three to six months where the most savings are generally otherwise accrued. 

Apart from the savings incurred by booking months in advance, doing so also ensures that travellers can fly on specific dates and generally enables them to book their preferred seats. 

“For those willing to take the risk, remember that flight prices may go down just before the departure day, but there’s no guarantee that they will so travellers may end up having to pay more, not less by waiting until the last minute”, advises Shelton.