herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Want a cheap flight to take your family to the summer sun? Here's how to get one

Sinead Ryan
Sinead Ryan

I ticked a bucket list item last month and found myself in Reykjavik, a place I've always wanted to see.

It was wild, cold and compelling, so I'm delighted that Icelandic airline WOW Air will offer cheap flights to Boston and Washington DC from Dublin later this year with a stop-over in their capital.

I think sometimes we only think of Aer Lingus and Ryanair when getting off this island, and with the proposed sale of the former very much in the news, I thought it might be an idea to examine the best ways to avail of cheap flights.

Sunshine

February is a key month for Dubliners to book a trip for summer sunshine, so I've compared some flights using different methods to see which worked best (see table).

Here's what I found:

  • Don't limit yourself to our Aer Lingus and Ryanair - many others fly out of Dublin or transfer through it en route somewhere else, picking up passengers. Use www.skyscanner.com to find all the deals, not just the obvious ones.
  • Consider using a different airport. I flew to Iceland out of Belfast with EasyJet, which doesn't use Dublin as a hub. It gave a whole new range of destinations to compare. You do have to factor in the sterling price which, given the continuing slide of the euro, needs watching.But the journey up the M1 was less than two hours and worth it when the alternative was flying out of London.
  • Think about lay-overs. Yes, they can be a pain, but if money is tight it's a great way of saving. It might appear contrary but it can be cheaper to fly east to go west.Heading to New York this weekend, returning next Wednesday, from Dublin costs €808 direct with Aer Lingus. Fly Air France with a Paris layover and you'll do it for €486.
  • Most airlines have flight partners which you may not know about. Using a trawler site like ebookers.com or farecompare.com will find them for you.
  • If you're flexible you'll get cheaper fares by booking to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. The most expensive flying days are Friday and Sunday.
  • Never get swept away with the headline fare. Factor in insurance, bags and transfers also to comparing the real costs.
  • Go with the earliest or latest flight in the day for better value - you can sleep on the plane!

Remember your rights when flying are well documented and observed in Europe. However, they are not as generous or obvious as you might think.

transfers

You are entitled to redress if your flight is delayed, but it depends on the time, distance being travelled and circumstances.

You get meals, refreshments, accommodation (where necessary) and transfers if the delay is at least two hours. If the flight is cancelled you get the option of the next available flight, a rescheduling or a refund. You can't have both.

Airlines can get out of the obligation if they notify you of the cancellation two weeks in advance though, which is annoying for onward journeys and pre-booked accommodation.

The Regulator is the Commission for Aviation Regulation (www.aviationreg.ie).

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