Strategies for cheap air travel

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 6:19am

The post-Christmas lull has kicked in and you desperately need another holiday. Lunar New Year is just around the corner, but you haven't booked your flights yet. You scour the internet, but everything seems to be too expensive.

Kate Uttam of Eskay Travels says your most affordable getaway option over the five-day break is either the Philippines or India. At the time of writing, a flight to Manila booked on Philippine Airlines' website will set you back just over HK$2,600. Uttam can get the same seat for up to HK$1,000 cheaper. Jet Airways to Mumbai costs around HK$6,800, a seat which Uttam can offer for HK$4,700.

There's also the option of using our neighbouring airports. Both Macau and Shenzhen are just an hour from the city centre, and the HK$150 or so it costs to reach their airports could save you thousands.

A flight from Macau to Seoul is about HK$3,300, which is HK$1,000 lower than flying from Hong Kong. A flight from Shenzhen to Sanya ("the Hawaii of China") is just HK$1,300, which is HK$2,000 less than from Hong Kong.

But for those who have left it to the last minute, Hong Kong does have the advantage of being an international travel hub.

"Major airlines have a certain quota assigned to them for connecting flights," says Uttam.

"If the flight is mostly empty a couple of days before departure, they'll release the seats to the public for a lower rate."

Similarly, the rise of wealthy mainlanders travelling across Asia has seen major airlines giving a greater advantage to mainland-focused travel agencies such as Swire, Sunflower, or China Travel Services. Many of these agents are assigned a high number of so-called block seats. These are normally reserved for packages or group tours, but eventually sold as discounted flights just one or two days before departure.

Keep checking in with different agents for information about these flights.

And if all else fails, let the world plan your trip. is a start-up that puts you in touch with travel experts around the world. You enter your flight details and launch a contest based on a small finder's fee.

Within hours, a team of 2,000 international reviewers will present competing flight options. The site guarantees that they'll find you a cheaper option, or your finder's fee back.

Finally, a piece of tech advice: if you're searching for flights online and have visited the same airline website a few times, remember to delete your browser's cookies.

Travel websites track your visits and purposely raise the flight price to get you to book quickly.

Deleting cookies will make them think you're a new customer and will set the flight back to its original price.