Last-minute flight bookings-How to go about it
While some people prefer booking their air ticket several months in advance, others prefer waiting until a few days or weeks before their departure. There are many reasons somebody would choose last-minute flight booking ranging from waiting to get time for a spontaneous decision to traveling somewhere else.
Though it is more economical to book a flight in advance, sometimes you might not have resources to facilitate that, so you may not have other options but to opt for last-minute flight booking.
Regardless of the circumstances that will push you into booking your flight at the last moment, this post outlines all the information about last-minute plane booking and how to go about it.
So what is meant by the time “last-minute”?
Certainly, the term “last minute” may be subjective, meaning that to one person, it can be just a few days in advance, and to another, it could be more than a month. Simply put, last-minute booking is the last possible time a person books a flight
Tips for booking last-minute travels
At one point or another, we might be forced to book a last-minute flight reservation. Whether it is for personal reasons or business travels, last-minute flight booking can be expensive with annoying fees.
While it may seem like you don’t have options, the following tips may help you save some bucks if you find yourself in such a situation.
Avoid close-in airline booking charges.
If you are a frequent traveler and have reward points in your account, it can be better to book an award flight instead of paying cash. However, some airline brands like United Airlines and American Airlines charge a close-in booking fee of $75 if you book a flight within three weeks to departure.
In short, it might be better if you pay cash and keep the points for later use if the flight tickets are cheaper. What’s more, you can avoid paying the American Airlines close-in booking charges by using the British Airways Avios.
The two airlines are partners, so it is easier to book their flights through Avios miles. You can access Avios miles by moving the American Express Membership Rewards reward points, or The Chase Ultimate points to British airways.
Other brands that do not charge close-in booking fees include;
- Delta airlines.
- Alaska airlines
- Southwest airlines
Several international airline brands, including Singapore and Aeromexico airlines, do not charge booking fees, and you have the option to book a partner flight to avoid paying the other expense.
Also, some brands might offer more awards a few days before departure after all the cash-paying passengers have had enough time making reservations.
Therefore, if you have many points in your frequent travelers’ account, often consider using the award ticket before opting to pay cash. Indeed, if you are an elite traveler, you can be exempted from paying these close-in fees.
Compare ticket prices from more than one site.
Nowadays, airlines prefer keeping the best deals from third-party booking providers. However, it doesn’t mean you cannot get a great deal on these third-party booking sites.
The quickest way of finding the best last-minute flight booking deals is by utilizing momondo since they compare prices between airline brands and third-party service providers very quickly. As a matter of fact, they are quicker than Google Flights, and their website layout is more appealing.
Airlines have high chances of giving discounts on the red-eye flights that depart early and arrive late. With this type of scheduling flexibility, you might have some of the easy ways to save a few bucks and still travel to the desired destination on the correct date.
Generally, have a look at layover periods when you book these undesirable flights. Sometimes you can find yourself spending a few more dollars to board the same connecting plane without spending time at the airport lounge because you chose a last-minute flight to save $75.
Additional tip: don’t forget to enquire from other close airports for potentially low prices. While established airline brands have flexible ticket prices, you might also book a cheaper flight when you book one with only one connection from the nearby airport.
Choose to travel during mid-week.
Booking a flight 48 hours to take off can easily increase the ticket fee to more than twice the initial price if you had booked in advance. However, sometimes you are left with no option when the need to travel comes up at the last minute.
If possible, you can find a chance to try to backdate the travel dates or book mid-week flights when most business passengers had already hit the ground. However, if you are flexible and convenient enough, try traveling in the middle of the week and booking your flights as unusual as possible.
Remember when you book a flight at the last hours, even a difference of one day can make you save some dollars. When you are overwhelmed by the wanderlust euphoria, you can check for the last-minute hot deals on the company’s website too.
Empty seats do no profit airlines, and they will likely fill the seats with less-traveled routes at a discounted fee and even attract attention for new courses. So, always be on the lookout for this kind of deal whenever traveling on the eleventh hour or struggling with last-minute flight bookings.
Research for last-minute hotel deals online.
Instead of heading directly to any hotel website to book a room, check for last-hours online deals if you are aiming to save some money. Though you won’t be able to know the name of the hotel until you pay for the deals, Priceline Express Deals can enable you to save up to 60%,
Whether you are loyal to a specific hotel line or not, you can still reside in a high-level property at an affordable price. You never know, you might still stay in the same hotel you would have booked at a full price.
If the idea of knowing your deal after booking doesn’t make you happy, or you prefer knowing what you will have before completing the reservations, HotelTonight can be an ideal site to check out for your hotel booking.
Established hotel companies and locally-owned hotels list their empty rooms on the site and accept reservations on the same day.
If you prefer to pay with your reward points, you will be forced to book directly through the hotel.
Some hotels reward programs allow you to merge points with family and friends to share a room. You can just go ahead and book a room even if you were 5000 points less instead of paying cash.
Prepare for the unexpected.
Usually, the best last-minute travel deals are found during the off-season, when you don’t have a clear destination, or when you are not required to fly. However, if you have exhausted all these tips to find a better last-minute flight booking deal, you should consider taking an Amtrak or driving instead.
Also, suppose it is not a must to travel to a particular city. In that case, you can get great, unexpected offers by subscribing to newsletters of your preferred airline brands, hotels, cruise lines, and third-party booking sites.
Sites such as Costco Travels provide some of the best cruise and car rental deals since you are eligible for Costco gift cards and receive onboard credits alongside reduced fees. Also, if you are a Costco executive member, you are eligible for a 2% cashback discount on all their travel purchases and any reward points you may earn with a travel credit card.
In the events of last-minute travels, flexibility is the primary factor to help you save money. If you want to depart or arrive at your most preferred time and chose any place on the map to stay, last-minute flight booking cab adventurous and save you some money than advance booking.
While advance booking gives you the most flexible travel dates and desirable flights, you can save some bucks with last-minute travel arrangements. Though it might take some homework, with the right websites and apps, reward points, and some level of flexibility, you can achieve the best of last-minute travel.
How to deal with last-minute flight cancellations.
While it is rare for an airline to cease its operations immediately, flight cancellations usually occur in the airline industry, leaving passengers wondering how they will salvage their journeys and get refunds on any cash spent before the cancellations.
The following are what you should do before, during, and after booking your flight to avoid unnecessary disruptions that the cancellations might cause.
Book an airline brand that is likely to have your back in the event of any eventuality.
Traveling on a budget airline may be a great way of saving money during your trip, but doing so can potentially complicate things in the event of flight cancellations.
According to Kristin Addis, the CEO of Be My Travel Muse, traveling on such flights can be a little bit riskier. And if you want to travel with a consistent, reliable brand, it will be safe to travel with a more established airline and have partners they can rebook you on in case of flight cancellations.
However, flying on smaller and less established brands is like rolling dice; mostly, it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t, which is really frustrating.
It is advisable to research the avenues you are using to book on if you are not booking directly from the company.
This research is important because such sites can have different policies regarding what you might be entitled to in case of cancellations and varying quality of customer service responsiveness, all of which are crucial during eventualities and you are trying to get a refund or rebook.
If you have not heard of an online travel booking agency or a small airline brand, it would be a wise decision to do a few background checks to avoid unexpected alarming situations you could have avoided in advance.
Get travel insurance or use a credit card that comes with one.
If you want extra in times of flight-related eventualities, you need to consider getting travel insurance. However, it is important to read all the terms and conditions in detail because not all the policies are created the same.
Also, before you get a travel insurance policy, check into your credit card because some of them feature great travel insurance policies when you use them to book flights. Credit cards like the VentureOne, CapitalOne, and Bank of America premium reward have travel insurance policies that might be helpful with matters like flight cancellations.
Ask about overnight assistance whenever necessary.
Depending on the reasons for canceling the flight, most airlines usually provide at least a discount to cover the hotel expenses if the passengers get stuck somewhere at night.
In some instances, they may also offer vouchers and refunds to cater for things like security, transportation necessities, and food, especially if the reason for the cancellation was an issue within their control, like a mechanical breakdown.
However, most airline companies have a force majeure clause that reduces their liability in the event of unavoidable circumstances, like bad weather conditions or travel restrictions from the visiting country.
Despite these, airlines are not allowed by the law to show you that clause; therefore, it is essential to read their policies before booking. If the company does not offer any assistance, your credit may step in and save the situation.
And it is advisable to contact them immediately you realized you are stuck for any allowance before booking a room. Once you do this, ensure to keep the receipts of every transaction, including the air ticket, because you will likely be required to file a claim with them as evidence.
If both the airline and the credit card providers do not come to your rescue, work with your budget to secure a room from nearby hotels or simply sleep at the airport. This might be equally helpful since you will be close when you are notified of the available flight under short notice.
Contact the airline about getting rebooked.
In case your flight gets canceled, begin by contacting the company for a possibility of getting rebooked if they are still operating. You can do this either through the phone or in person at the customer service desk within the airport.
The airline might be in the process of getting you rebooked, or if not, they will start the process once you get in touch with them or give better suggestions for the next course of action.
Though the law does not allow airlines to book you on another brand, they sometimes do that, especially if the other airline is part of a network and can get you on one of their partner planes. It is essential to ask if this option is not offered to you straight away.
Also, if you booked the flight through a third-party online booking platform or an agency, you could contact them first. Though it is preferably vital to reach the airline first since you will be going for help directly from the source of the problem.
However, depending on the relationship between the airline and the agency, you can contact the airline and still refer you to the agency to get the problem solved from their end.
Notify your vacation rental, tour operator, and hotel of the delay.
If the flight cancelations will make you report to your hotel or vacation rental late, it is best to get them notified of the same to let them know you will be coming, but you might arrive late.
And if you had paid for something in advance and you think you might miss it, it is advised that you get in touch and ask what they can do, either in terms of refund or even a discount on the same package when you finally arrive in the hotel.
Though some may have a late cancellation policy, others may be willing to work with you on the possibility of a full or partial refund, more so, for example, when they are in a position to book another person in the room.
For excursions and tours, it can be a good idea to create a buffer between the arrival date and any event that might occur, such as delays and cancellations. While there might be limited vacation time, it might be best to arrive a day or two before the actual tour. This may be helpful if arriving late might kill all your arrangements.
Check and weigh the compensation options.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. airlines are not allowed by the law to repay their passengers for canceled flights unless you booked an oversold flight, in which case the passengers are eligible for compensation.
However, as reported by Smarter Traveler, most airline policies allow give passengers the right to a refund that equals the value of the unused ticket. This is usually provided in the same method used when paying for the tickets in case the trip doesn’t end as expected.
On the contrary, the European Union has elaborate legal protection. If you are traveling using an E.U.-based airline in or out of a European airport, you are entitled to a refund, compensation, or alternate flight if the cancellation delays the journey for more than two hours.
As a passenger, the best bet is to contact the airline or the third party you booked through and ask for compensation and the process to follow.
If you get overwhelmed or pushed back by the process, you can seek the services of a legal company to file a claim on your behalf, even though they will take part of your compensation fee.
However, if you don’t succeed in getting money from the airline or the online booking agency, or they are willing to give you an offer for future travels, you can reach out to your credit card insurance to get help from them.
The latter process will require lots of documentation to present as evidence, so ensure you save everything along the way and take some time collecting records of every transaction you can use as evidence.
Remain calm and consistently polite.
Traveling is sometimes marred with a certain level of uncertainty, and it is always important to get into any trip mentally prepared for anything.
Obviously, emotions will be high when you are stranded, worked up, and eager to reach your destination, but it is good to remember that the flight cancellation is not a making of the customer service team.
Though you might be frustrated, the best option is to remain calm, polite, and professional, knowing that you will eventually reach your destination.
While planning ahead of time can be a great way of avoiding uncertainty and creates enough time to prepare, some people prefer or may be forced to go for last-minute flight booking.
Regardless of the reasons, last-minute booking can be challenging and often characterized by high emotions that might make you lose focus and end up delayed.
Follow the tips discussed in this article to help you avoid these challenges, stay focused and save some bucks. Research for prices from different sources, avoid close-in charges, choose to travel midweek, and check for last-minute hotel deals.
Also, if you may feel overwhelmed with the process, you can get a person or an agency to run things for you-of course, at a fee. Above all, always be prepared for anything when you have decided to opt for a last-minute flight booking.