Your destination is set, you’ve picked your preferred carrier and you’ve decided to book online. Easy – right? Well, not for all and many people get caught out somewhere in the booking process – especially with international flights, and it can end up costing them with reissue fees, wasted time and unnecessary stress. Here’s a checklist of tips for booking flights online and errors to avoid.
- If you’ve found a fare on a travel agent’s site, check it out against the airline’s site to make sure you’re getting a good deal. On writing this article, I just checked out a simple fare Brisbane to Bangkok return. One online agent was $30.00 more expensive than going through the airline’s site. Another online agent was $50.00 cheaper than the airline. It pays to shop around a little to get the best price.
- Check the fare conditions and inclusions before agreeing to purchase e.g. cancellation and amendment fees, is checked in baggage included or additional. There’s usually a box to tick before confirming your purchase advising that you agree to the terms and conditions, agree to the fare rules and to any disclaimers. If you end up wanting to change the dates on a non-changeable fare, don’t go to the airline and say you didn’t know – the fare rules are there for you to look at before purchasing and you agreed to the conditions before pressing that “Purchase Now” button.
- Ensure the dates you have booked are correct – especially with flights departing early morning e.g. 0005hrs and arriving the day before/day after. e.g. if your flight departs 25 Aug at 0005hrs then you will need to arrive at the airport late evening on the 24th of Aug – usually 2-3 hours prior for an international departure.
- Do you know which airport at your destination you want to fly in to? Make sure you’ve selected the correct one where there is more than one airport in a particular city e.g. Bangkok has Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Muang (DMK), London has multiple with Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW). Stansted (STN) being only 3 of them. Different airports in a large city are usually situated a long distance apart.
- Input your name exactly as per your passport – not your shortened first name, not the nickname your girlfriend/boyfriend calls you by, not your married name if your maiden name is in your passport. Also, check you’ve spelt it correctly. The computer didn’t make an error – you did!! (yep – we get that excuse too). A call to your airline or agent saying the name is wrong on your ticket – “my name is Jacqueline but I’m called Jackie for short” or “my passport name is Roberto but everyone calls me by my middle name Paul” is not going to get you off the hook. Flights often need to be rebooked and if the ticket has already been issued, there will be reissue fees. And if you think you can just turn up at the airport check-in with an incorrect name, think again. They will often make you have the ticket reissued before checking you in. Do you really want to miss your flight and waste money in fees over such a simple thing?
- Make sure you’ve entered your correct email address and mobile phone contact – the email address enables the electronic ticket to be sent to you once issued and also gives the airline a method of contact once you’ve departed e.g. in case of a flight cancellation. The telephone number enables airline staff to contact you quickly in case of flight delays, cancellations or other queries.
- Have your passport on hand when you’re making the booking – some sites and countries immigration authorities require this info to be advised in the booking process.
- If booking separate tickets to multiple destinations with different airlines, check the minimum connecting times if you are trying to connect through – especially if the flights depart from different terminals or airports.
- When booking via an online agent’s site, cheapest is not always best. A cheaper flight may be on a carrier who doesn’t fly direct and your journey may take you hours more than travelling direct with a slightly more expensive airline. So check the carrier and total travel time before booking.
- Take the opportunity to look at the other useful info found on airline sites e.g. baggage allowances & excess baggage charges. Conditions of Carriage, paid upgrades, special assistance e.g. wheelchairs, special meals available, airport information, lounge info, accommodation, destination info, power outlets on board, travelling with infants, menus on board.
Ok – ready to book? Hopefully I haven’t scared you off. For the seasoned on-line booking travellers out there, you’re probably thinking “isn’t all this obvious?” Well, judging by some of the calls we receive, no – not for everyone. So I’m hoping these tips for booking flights online will make you a little more aware of what to look out for and make the process easy and worry-free. Happy booking everyone!!