There has been a lot of travel chaos around the world this week — with flights cancelled and passengers stranded at airports, it’s clear that demand for travel is back.
With people having put off overseas trips in the past two years owing to the global pandemic and associated travel restrictions, travellers are once again eager to take to the skies this summer.
“Now more than ever, people want to travel. Many travellers expect to spend extra time or more money — or both — on coming vacations to compensate for the two-year pandemic-induced travel moratorium,” says Dan Richards, chief executive of Global Rescue — a travel risk management service provider — and a member of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the US Department of Commerce.
Alongside that travel demand are rising flight prices — driven by a lack of pilots, crew and operational aircraft coupled with skyrocketing oil prices which mean finding a bargain holiday deal is not as straightforward as before.
But that's not to say there are no summer offers to be found. If you're willing to put in the work you can still grab a bargain. Here's how.
1. Travel at the end of July for the best-value airfares
Many travellers won’t have too much flexibility on when they fly because of school holidays and other commitments, but if you can be flexible about which week you travel, you can save some dirhams.
According to data shared with The National from online flight agency Skyscanner — the most popular week to fly out of the UAE this summer is July 4, which is no surprise given that it's the start of the school holidays for the majority of UAE schools and the last working week before Eid Al Adha.
Closely behind are the weeks commencing June 27 and August 8, both of which are among the more expensive times to travel. Flying during the week of August 8 is likely to cost you the most with average airfares — taking into account all Skyscanner bookings made from the UAE over the past year to all destinations this summer — costing Dh2,002.
The cheapest week to fly out of the UAE is in the last week of July, when airfares are about 8 per cent lesser than average for the summer, with prices about Dh1,850, but fluctuating depending on where you’re travelling to and on which day of the week you depart.
2. Avoid flying on weekends
For the best value airfares, it pays to avoid flying on a weekend. Skyscanner's latest data shows that a Saturday or Sunday departure from the UAE will cost you an average of 12 per cent more than travelling on weekdays.
Which weekday to choose depends on the destination with Thursday being the cheapest day to fly to the Philippines this summer, and Tuesday having the best-value fares for flights to places such as Jordan, India and Egypt.
Savings for flying on different days of the week can be substantial, especially for those travelling as a family. For instance, a family of four flying to the Philippines on a Thursday instead of a Saturday during the summer holidays can save a potential 11 per cent on airfares.
“We’re aware that the summer holidays can be a costly time to travel so we encourage families to take note of our tips and utilise the tools on our site like our Calendar View and Search Everywhere," says Laura Lindsay, Travel Trends and Destination Expert at Skyscanner.
3. Be flexible
For top savings this summer, be flexible about when you fly and be open to inspiration on where you plan to go. Use Skyscanner’s “search everywhere” function to find the cheapest deals for travel.
This tool uses the site’s algorithms to locate the best bargains. Flight deals are live and change on a daily, hourly and even minute-to-minute basis, but if you’re ready to embrace your spontaneous side, there can be some great deals.
Live examples at the time of writing include return flights from Abu Dhabi to Bulgaria's Sofia on July 26 with airfares from Dh366, or cut-price tickets to Romania's Bucharest from Dubai on July 27 starting at Dh543.
Greece's holiday hotspot Santorini is another option with economy return flights from Abu Dhabi on July 25 starting at only Dh388. If India is on your visit list, and you don't mind flying out of Dubai and into Abu Dhabi, you can find direct flights to Mumbai from Dh399 departing on July 20.
It also pays to look at airfares from airports close to the one that you most want to fly from. Certain airports receive better flight deals than others so it can often be cheaper to reposition to these airports than to fly directly from your nearest airport. And if you can take advantage of free transport services to help you get to nearby cities — such as Etihad Airways' complimentary shuttle buses from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and Al Ain — all the better.
4. Think outside the search engines
Keep in mind that not all destinations follow the same price patterns, so it pays to set up alerts on flight finding sites such as Skyscanner, Google Flights and Momondo to be notified when prices rise or fall on specific routes you're interested in.
When you see a good price, book it. The closer it gets to your date of travel, the less likely it is that a better fare will open up. This is even more valid this year as airlines cancel flights around the world because of a surge in demand, meaning the chances of getting a last minute bargain airfare are lower than in previous years.
Another top tip is to double check which airlines fly to the destination you want to visit, and then check airfares direct with each carrier. Some airlines such as Southwest and Volaris, don’t show up on some search engines so it pays to do a little extra research.
If you do find a good price on an airline's website, booking direct can bring additional benefits such as easier cancellation or change procedures and being able to communicate directly with the airline in the event of overbookings or delays.
5. Sign up for airline loyalty programmes
If you’re booking a flight with an airline that you’ve never flown with before, or that you're not yet a member of their loyalty scheme, sign up for the programme before you book your flight. That way, if there are any discounts, travel perks or reward offers running, you can take advantage of them when you book.
Some programmes also reward travellers for booking new flights, so if you join the scheme before you make your booking, you'll may be able to get the rewards when booking the flight you were going to reserve anyway, instead of having to wait until the next time you travel with the airline.