Air travel, despite being the fastest and arguably the most convenient mode of transport, is equally the most pricey. Perhaps, as they say, convenience comes at a cost. But this does not always have to be the case.
By learning a few tricks of the industry, it is possible to derive maximum value from your pricey transport mode and even end up making it cheaper most of the time.
These six little-known travel secrets are a good way to start learning some of those industry secrets that lower your costs or make you feel it was worth the cost.
1. The Best Deals are Not Always Online
There are great platforms that one can use to make flight bookings online such as Kayak.com but airlines do not necessarily offer all their discounts to these sites directly. Most airlines prefer to offer their net fares and consolidator tickets to large corporate travel agencies to ensure they fill empty seats without watering down the value of their inventory.
Talk to your travel agent to see how you can take advantage of these net and consolidator fares that the discount sites do not have, especially for international business and first-class seats.
2. You are Better-off Buying a Package Deal
Even though you may not use up all the bundled goodies in a package deal, sometimes booking that safari, hotel and airfare package can be cheaper than buying airfare alone. Also, watch out for any running specials airlines may be having and take advantage of them.
3. The in-flight Magazine is Yours to Keep
We recently discovered that 4 in every 5 people who travel on our local carrier, Kenya Airways, always left their copy of the Msafiri in-flight Magazine behind because they assumed it was not theirs to go with! Actually it looks too fancy and too glamorous to be free!
The in-flight magazine is your free copy to keep – both copies actually if you are doing a round trip with the same airline. The headphones, on the other hand, at least for Kenya Airways, are not yours though – leave those behind!
4. Frequent Flyer Miles Really Are not Worth Much
Every airline nowadays runs a frequent flyer programme which rewards those travelling a lot with redeemable points. The problem is that there are too many of them out there that they are losing value. You would be forced to accumulate lots of this frequent flyer points to actually earn tickets for, say, a seat upgrade.
In some cases, the points have an expiry date such that by the time you get round to amassing enough, they are expired! Frequent flyer miles sometimes come in handy, but they are not always a deal. So do not kill yourself trying to accumulate them – in fact, claim for them anytime you are travelling and live as if they do not exist.
5. Your Plane is a Revolving Door of Germs
Did you know that even though Airlines insist that the cabin air is continually scrubbed of germs as it circulates through the aeroplane it is at the same time pressurised and hence stripped of any moisture? This dry air drains out your mucous membranes and lowers your resistance to germs around you.
Wow unto you if you are travelling on a plane with someone who has flu. It does not matter where they are seated because the dry, recirculated air makes you more likely to get infected!
Increased preference for air travel is not making things any better on this front. Most airlines have become advanced ‘matatus’, for lack of a better word. There is no time to adequately clean an aeroplane between flights.
This means any lingering germs from a previous flight can survive for hours on seats and faucets of bathrooms and easily continue to infect. A bout of disease is the last thing you need after coughing a tidy sum to be airborne. Beware!
6. You Can Lock-in Your Fare In Advance Without Paying
It is possible and it is your right to book airfare and then lock in the price you see for 24 hours without payment – as long as you are booking directly through the airline. TravelStart, our travel booking partner and Africa’s largest online travel agent, allow you to do this.
This way you can see a price you want and lock it in while you decide whether or not you want to take it. Few people take advantage of this to get better prices in the future. Be aware though that in some cases the gamble may backfire on you with a future price becoming higher than the previous price.
Are there other secrets you have come across while travelling by air that you may want to share? Do let us know.