It's sale season in the Air. Travel Comfort tells you how to get a fare deal

Airlines & political parties have nothing in common, except that no one believes them, and that in the last few months one has been trying to woo the flyer, the other the voter.
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BANGALORE, India - May 1, 2014 - PRLog -- Airlines & political parties have nothing in common, except that no one believes them, and that in the last few months one has been trying to woo the flyer, the other the voter. If politicians held out the lure of freebies, the country's five carriers rolled out seven sale offers on domestic air tickets (, all in the last three months. No surprise then that the ongoing Indian summer seems to have arrived with two big questions: which political party to vote for & which airline discount offer to go for?

Since Kingfisher Airlines shut shop in October 2012, prices of seats on the remaining 450-odd aircrafts have gone up, with return fares to most domestic destinations ( staying in five digits. But this year's different, with airlines launching threeday sale offers every few weeks. The only catch is that these are either 30, 60 or 90-day advance purchase offers.

But the Indian flyer, notorious for his/her inability to plan and book a holiday early, has been coaxed into breaking old habits. One in four who booked an air ticket during the saleperiod were those who had not planned to travel in the first place, but were enticed to do so and made an impulse buy, said a survey carried out by online travel portal

Wondering about the reason for this sudden manna from the skies? Experts say it's simple: empty seats. Amber Dubey of global consultancy KPMG said: "The highest load factor recorded in the period January-December 2013 was 81.6% in May 2013. This means that even in the peak holiday season, around 18% seats went abegging. In the whole year, 25.3% seats went vacant. Airlines, therefore, are offloading about 5-10 % seats on select flights at deep discounts. These seats are carefully chosen & peak-hour flights that have high occupancy are generally not part of such offers." So how does one navigate the maze to snap that cheap air ticket? We spoke to industry insiders to come up with a quick primer.

Early bird gets the bargain

Since only a few seats are released at discounted rates on each flight (, the early birds get the best deals. Don't wait to read about the sale in the newspaper. Set up a Google alert, download mobile apps offered by travel portals, and sign up with airlines for email/SMS alerts on offers. As compared to online, mobile apps often give a better discount both for airfares and hotel bookings. If you see a great ticket price, be ready to pounce on it, especially if it's a high-demand sector. Typically the morning and late-evening flights between metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad on weekdays are snapped up first. So are afternoon flights to tourist destinations on weekends. For instance: Saturday, Sunday flights that land in Goa between 12 noon and 1 pm are lapped up early.

Stay flexible

Reverse the booking pattern. Find a cheap fare first and then plan your holiday ( around it. In such advance purchase offers, the low-in-demand flights offer the heaviest discounts. It is known that mid-week and afternoon flights are priced the cheapest, be it a discount offer or otherwise. Srinath Jayaram of Travel Man India Pvt.Ltd. says Tuesdays & Thursdays offer the best deals. So those who can afford to be flexible with their itinerary and dates should be so. When travelling to popular tourist destinations, "unpopular" days have the heaviest quantum of discount. Book the return ticket on a Friday, and start the holiday on a Tuesday. The difference in fares could be about 30% even in an advance purchase scheme. Check out the fare calenders that most online travel portals put up these days, and see the fares for a month at a glance. The fare calendar should only be used as a basic guide to get an idea of the fare pattern. It is not updated frequently. Often when one clicks on the cheapest fare on offer in the fare calendar one finds that it is not available.

Stay with the copycats

The first airline to announce a sale usually does its homework well. What it means is that you will not get a good fare for, say, travel on August 14, a Thursday this year, as it flags off a long weekend. But others who rush in to offer similar discounts generally miss out on such nitty-gritties. In the recent discount offers, the me-too airlines were the ones that offered the cheapest fares ( on popular travel days and days around festivals.

Know your destination

This is for passengers who fly to nonmetros. Sales generally do not cover flights to destinations like Srinagar, Leh, and Port Blair, but if you're lucky enough to find one, book immediately. The percentage discount will be much lower than on other routes. A Delhi-Leh one-way ticket for mid-June currently costs Rs 8,000 and though it may seem steep it is not, given that the route is serviced by very few airlines. Similarly, a Delhi-Port Blair one-way ticket for mid-June is currently available for Rs 7,000, again a comparatively discounted fare. Among the nontourist places, destinations like Tuticorin, Siliguri generally have steep fares, but they were included in the recent Spice Jet sale.

Work cancellation fee

If the latest discount scheme is better than the previous one and you have already booked your air ticket, then check the cancellation charges. This year, the best discounts were offered in the first week of April though the sale started in January. At times, the savings offered by the new discount scheme are more than the cancellation penalty of Rs 1,500 and other charges added up.

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