Why The Cheapest Flight Isn't Always Best

8 September 2015

Words by Ashton Rigg

Who doesn't love a bargain? These days you can jet-off to a domestic capital city for little more than the cost of weekend brunch. Clearance-like flight sales occur on an almost daily basis - it's truly never been easier to book a getaway on a whim.

Unfortunately, sometimes those bargains can come back to bite you. The lure of saving a little spending money is hard to resist, but when you factor in the extra costs for checked baggage, potential change fees and inconvenient scheduling, suddenly the deal doesn't seem so sweet.

There's a time and a place for cheap flights, but here are some things to consider before bagging that bargain on the fly.  

Baggage carousel

1. You end up paying extra for inclusions like checked baggage

You've saved $30 on the airfares, only to realise the fees for adding checked baggage and a purchasing snack on board will gobble up those funds you thought you had banked. And that's if you add checked baggage online, which is substantially cheaper than getting caught out at the check-in desk. Remember: those awfully tempting 'lite' flights are light on price as well as inclusions. 

2. If you need to change/cancel your flight, it's going to cost you

There are three ways to avoid copping change or cancellation fees: (a) purchase amendment or cancellation cover with your travel insurance provider; (b) purchase additional ticket insurance when booking the flights; (c) book a flexible airfare. Cheap-cheap flights do not come with flexibility and changes often incur a fee of around $80, plus the fare difference. Ouch.

3. Your chances of a sweet upgrade are slim to none

Everyone wants to know how to score an upgrade to business class, first class or, heck, even premium economy! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to upgrades (a smile always goes a long way), but it's very rare that you will jump the queue from the cheapest seat to the pointy end of the plane.

Airport delays

4. It can be absolute mayhem when something goes wrong

Recent incidents like the Bali Ash Cloud prove bargain flights can sometimes come at a cost, and sometimes that cost is your valuable time. In a crisis, Travel Managers are the first to know any updates and act as a buffer between their customers and the airline, re-booking flights and dealing with the back-and-forth. This is where travel insurance comes into play too. It's better to have it and not need it, etc.

5. You might end up taking the long way 'round

Flights that look too good to be true? Make sure to double-check the fine print and trust your intuition. If there are two flights to your chosen destination and one of them is significantly cheaper, chances are it involves a stopover and will add a few hours (or more) onto your journey, not to mention the potential havoc with delays and making connections. Either that or...

Asleep at airport

6. Bargain flights often depart at ungodly hours

...the flight leaves at midnight. While late-night departures are fairly common for international travel, they can be a nuisance for short-haul domestic flights. If you're a bit of a night owl, this isn't a problem, but keep in mind you might struggle to find any restaurants open upon your arrival, and the reception staff at your hotel may have called it a night unless it's a 24-hour desk.

7. You might not earn any frequent flyer points

When you cash-in your frequent flyer miles on flights, you usually don't earn any points on that particular trip. If you take your points seriously, check the Ts&Cs of your airfares and make sure you're earning in the air. If you're flying with a loyalty program partner airline, the 'class' of flight can often impact on your potential to earn points, and we all know every point gets you that much closer to hot towels and complimentary PJs. 

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