Don’t fall into this flight booking trap

Some sneaky airlines will sting you with unexpected costs. Here’s how to avoid them.

Don’t fall into this flight booking trap

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. If she had one superpower, it would be teleportation – the ultimate cure for her fear of flying.

While many people may think travel writers live the life of Riley, jetting around here and there, resting their heads for free at some of the finer establishments in the world, this isn’t always the case.

While some may indeed see that as their job description, I have always felt part of the deal of travel writing is making all the travel mistakes so other people don’t have to. So in that spirit, today I bring to the table two valuable lessons when it comes to booking flights.

First, check the currency. Clearly this only applies to international flights or, and I stress the word or here, when you are booking a flight not from a destination with your local currency. For example, say you were to find yourself in the UK and you wanted to book a one-way flight from Palma, Mallorca back home. Most websites automatically assume you want the price in euros. Given you will be paying in GBP or AUD, euros are not entirely helpful. Interestingly, many airline sites do not offer you the option to change the currency at this point. So, you resort to Xe, the world's trusted currency authority, to convert said flight price for you. Satisfied with the amount in your local currency you go ahead and book your flight.

A short while later, you open your confirmation email, and after scrolling, you realise what you have actually paid. Instead of the £171 you thought you had paid, you discover £201 has been deducted from your account. How can this be? Well, it turns out Ryanair has actually converted the cost using Fx not Xe – somewhat conveniently, a sceptic may say.

Moral of the story? Be very wary of paying for your flight in a foreign currency and always opt for a site that displays local currency fares. Paying £201 for a Ryanair flight hurts more than I care to express ...

don't be like this woman

The second, arguably not true in 100 per cent of cases, is to book fares when you first decide on them. Yes, I know there are cheaper days to book flights. And yes, I have waited for those cheaper days in order to book flights. Guess what? They weren’t cheaper – in fact, quite the opposite – they were significantly more expensive. As seats book up and the available number gets into the single digit, fares skyrocket. One of the flights I had my eye on completely sold out.

Moral of the story? Unless you are booking over six months in advance, as soon as you have a clear idea on dates and times, just book. In all my years travelling, I have never paid anything but significantly more by hesitating or waiting to book flights.

Have you been caught out when booking flights in a different currency? Or do you have any other tips when it comes to booking flights?

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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    11th Mar 2017
    7:26am
    Have not had that issue yet Sue but we normally pre-book everything before we leave. I hate planning whilst under way.
    Will keep it in mind though as a real con. I would be hopping mad if they tried that one on.
    The only occasion I had to book a flight whilst overseas was last year when I got to LA only to discover that my Spirit Airlines (US) flight was cancelled due to snow on the runway at the destination. So I went down to the Southwest counter as I normally fly with this reliable carrier, paid for my flight and was on my way an hour or so later. No issues with the bill on my Australian credit card at all.
    Maybe the problem is RyanAir. We did Easyjet a few years ago and they were after anything they could stick customers with. I guess they figure a cheap fare can be sorted out one way or another.
    Drewbie
    11th Mar 2017
    2:05pm
    I agree with the content of this article & it is nice to be be tipped on how to avoid hidden costs accordingly. But here's my story concerning Promo flights. Back in March 2013, my wife, our 4 yr old son, myself & a good friend visited family in the Philippines for 3 weeks to attend local primary school & university graduation events. We booked/paid for promo flights with Jetstar, ( both domestic & international - 1st time buyers ). Flights to Philly, as I call it, went very well. But during our stay there, Jetstar International changed the departure time of our Australia bound flight from Manila, without notifying us accordingly. Turned out "they" did not add the .au designation on the end of my yahoo.com email address. So we missed our 8 pm Aussie bound flight from Manila, even though we duly arrived there with several hrs to spare.

    Our travelling mate fortunately had brought her visa credit card & very generously paid for four flights to Darwin, costing her $4,000 Aus & I was able to cover a further flight, from Singapore to Melbourne where we bused it home to Mildura. Yes, we should have re-checked our departure time during our holiday there, but where we were staying, internet was virtually non existent & mobile coverage very similar to remote regions of Australia.

    In essence, through no fault of ours we were forced to pay, outrageously " twice " for the return leg of our holiday home visit to Philly. Jetstar International arrogantly refused acknowledging fault nor compassionate enough to " bump us " onto the next available flight a few hrs later
    ( turned out there were spare seats available ) which would have arrived in Darwin ( a four hr flight from Manila ) allowing ample time to board our connecting flight to Melbourne.

    Isn't it time Airlines worldwide should have an ethical, non-voidable " get them home " policy as part of their charter regarding paid passenger carriage? Requiring them to place on the next available flight, all " left behind, stranded or flight cancelled " passengers who have a valid, acceptable reason for " why " they didn't make their flight.

    In fact; the above " requirement " should be made an unrepealable Law Statute by Governments worldwide.
    KSS
    11th Mar 2017
    5:11pm
    I don't think your issue is as cut and dried as you believe. The fact that you knew you were in a place where internet connection was unreliable and mobile access 'virtually non-existent' I would have thought it would be incumbent on you to make sure you check your home-bound flights in good time to make adjustments. In view of the difficulty in contacting you by your own admission, it is doubtful that had the airline not missed the .au from your e-mail address you very likely would not have got the message anyway. manilla is not the end of the earth and I am sure you could have found a travel agency to help you out.

    I am all for calling out poor performance by airlines, but given your admitted circumstances I do think some responsibility in this case lies with you.
    MICK
    12th Mar 2017
    12:14am
    In all fairness KSS Jetstar has a poor reputation beaten only by TigerAir. As a traveller I try to dot as many i's and cross as many t's as possible so that Murphy's Law does not get me.
    If Drewbie can prove that he gave Jetstar the correct email address then it is not his fault and he will recover his money through Fair Trading if that is the case and he pursues the matter.
    I might have thought a confirmation email for the booking would have gone to the corretc email address within 24 hours of being made. Is that what happened Drewbie?
    Gra
    11th Mar 2017
    4:01pm
    Who in their right mind would fly with RyanAir anyway?
    MICK
    12th Mar 2017
    12:15am
    Never have but a lot of Poms do. Easyjet was a horror and we nearly got burned by the Gestapo hostess boarding passengers. Others were.
    That is the choice between cheap and bells & whistles though.
    KSS
    11th Mar 2017
    5:21pm
    I'd also advise checking where the company is based if you are booking flights on-line even when doing so in Australia. Many of the companies are actually overseas and if there are any issues you could be in trouble. It may not be worth the low fare if you run into difficulties and they never (or very rarely) declare where their office is - you have to do all communication through forms on their websites. You will also not be able to find a telephone number either. Beware!
    red
    3rd Apr 2017
    10:32am
    My booking flight issue is mistaking the arrival time of 2.00 am with 2.00 p-m and then booking a hotel to arrive on that date but arriving 12 hours earlier. No amount of pleading with the staff would give me an early arrival- and I had to pay for another day. Oh well lesson learned. I now scrupulously check dates, times and do a spreadsheet if travelling through a few cities
    Drewbie
    18th Jun 2017
    5:46pm
    Hello everyone; Re - SJ's 2nd point regarding booking cheap flights. Back in 2013 when my wife, son & myself were, well in advance, trolling websites for return flights to the Philippines & domestic flights there-in, my wife made a glaring judgement error specifically regarding the latter. She kept holding off for months, in vain hope of getting a cheaper flight with her " preferred Airline, Cebu Pacific. Ultimately she chose not to book any flights for us, believing we'd be able to grab a flight once we were there.

    We had arranged to join her best work-mate's family in Northern Luzon for 4 days as they were in Philly same time we were. Only thing was, it was impossible to get a seat on any plane once we were there. Every single Airline servicing Philly was booked out. I knew well in advance this would be the case & nothing would persuade my wife to book early whilst here in Australia. Why? She couldn't comprehend that Easter was early
    ( late March ) in 2013.

    You know the moral/s I am definitely hinting at.

    13th Aug 2017
    6:38am
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