Friday, October 19, 2012

Finding Cheap Flights To Thailand - An Overview

Dawn one Thailand-bound morning as I waited for my connecting flight

The internet can be a marvelous tool for doing research, but advertising and deceptive linking have almost given it more drawbacks than benefits.  Take airline tickets, for example - and we will, today. I can suggest the sources I've used in the past, but since those are only based on my experiences you'll unfortunately have to do some of the legwork on your own.

Online travel forums can be a help, but sometimes the best references can be people you know and trust on one level or another, especially if you consider those sources with some amount of care.

Travel agents can be an enormous help if you're brand new to the idea of international flight, but you still have to do some research yourself if you intend to make an informed decision. Different travel agencies can be allied or connected to different outlets for blocks of discounted seats, and that can be a big help - if you know where to find them.  I'd suggest trying several different places, and advice from other travelers can again be the key here.

Dealing directly with the airlines themselves is another way of looking for deals, but fares can change with the direction of the breeze on any given day, and you need to be aware of that and, if possible, do some checking on fares over a period of a couple of weeks. Change your travel dates in their search engines, too, because different days will give you different results.  There are also often "classes" of tickets that are priced differently based on the miles awarded for each leg of your journey.  If you're one who enjoys that cat and mouse game that adds another dimension of probable frustration; I usually choose not to pay all that much attention to whether I'm getting 100% of my flight miles credited or, say, only 80% of them.  It's almost too minor a difference for me to worry about, but that may only be me.

I choose to get to Thailand comfortably, but that level of personal comfort is a relative thing, I know.  What may seem fine to me may seem hellish to others.  Still, I'd always choose not to spend my holiday money on more of a flight than I need; there are many other things I'd rather spend it on. That said, here are some airlines I'm familiar with, and how I'd rate them overall:

JAL - Japan Airlines - B+
I found the ticketing process, the on-time dependability and the employees I met to all be exemplary.  They also did deals with an agency I dealt with about a decade ago, and I got a round-trip economy seat for $610 round trip, with all fees and taxes included.

EVA - EVA Evergreen Airlines - A
My old standby, and where I tend to look first.  Booking directly through their site is often fairly simple, and they offer specials from the West coast of the US, especially from LAX (Los Angeles). The cabin staff are very attentive, and they offer a wide range of amenities - especially if you join their free frequent flyer program.

United Airlines - C
Domestic (for me here in California, anyway) airlines are just that: domestic, basic, little or no frills or amenities unless you popping for First Class, and the employees all too often tend to act as if they're doing you a favor by giving you much of any dollar value. I've actually had surly flight attendants. The cabins haven't been up to snuff - for my money, anyway - and I don't find much value to them period.

Cathay Pacific - A
A little more expensive than EVA, but their reservation system, staff, cabin crew and amenities by class are all on the same level as EVA.

If you're concerned about safety overall, you can do a Google search for airline accident rates and find several sites that list safety issues by airline and by region of the globe. I figure any time I'm hurtling along at 500 miles per hour 30,000 feet off the ground in a metal tube I'm literally flying on faith that the damn fool thing won't suddenly plunge to the ground, but there's no need to ignore safety records to save a few hundred dollars, either.  Do some investigation.

If you intend to book your own tickets, again do some checking on forums or travel sites to see which days of the week (and times of the year) are better buys.  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays I've found to be the more reasonably priced days to fly.  I've heard from several sources that the best time to be checking for ticket prices is Tuesday 12:00 East coast time, or 09:00 West coast time.  Prices can change not only from day to day, but within the same day - for the same identical flight.

Booking well in advance is standard advice worth noting, but there are also "last minute" fares when an airline is trying to fill a flight before cancelling it altogether, too.  And then there's just plain old dumb luck...

Let this merely be some food for thought, since some of you are thinking of the cold weather ahead and the warmer days in Thailand. We'll come back to it again with some sources for you at the beginning of next week.

As always, you input is welcome!


Christian said...

This post is specific for people travelling from North America to Thailand. If you travel from Europe, completely differenct Airlines come into play, I flew with: British Airways, Air India, Etihad, Oman Air and had stops in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Mumbai.

khunbaobao said...

Well, I'd respectfully disagree with your thought about it being specifically for people in North America. Other than the choices in airlines I shared, I think the rest of the suggestions are "global"... but thank you for mentioning others you've used.

How about following up and grading them for those who may be considering booking with them? Folks could add your opinion to their own research.

krobbie said...

Bao-Bao in my case there are fewer options and only one flies direct from New Zealand. That is why I choose Thai Airways. They have very good special at certain times of the year. I you want to travel in peak season you will indeed pay big bucks. The last time I went up at Christmas time it $NZ2200. However I always book the same seat and it is linked to my Thai Air Miles card so they no my preference.

I will be using this transport less for a few years as my partner, Bobey has just got his NZ Visa for 13 months. Yeha! We will still be going up to see his daughter but perhaps only once a year.

Keith Robinson

khunbaobao said...

That 2,200NZD is about $1,700USD - and that IS a little steep! Congratulations on Bobey getting his visa, by the way - and thanks for the input on your flights. I hope others will chime in with their experiences and ideas. Good to hear from you!

Christian said...

I have to correct my previous message: your selection of airlines applies to flights from and to North America. Except for EVA, they fly from London, but I never flew with them.

I have low standards (when I can sit during flight, get a meal, can watch a movie and arrive at my destination in time, it's fine for me) so I can't rate the airlines I have used.

khunbaobao said...

Your correction is appreciated, Christian; it may have been that our native tongues are different - it happens!

I, too, can swap SOME comfort for savings, but I'm less willing to do so than I used to be.

If you can assign a grade to airlines you've used, leave another comment and let us know which was your favorite and why, will you?

khunbaobao said...

A comment came in with a commercial link embedded, so allow me to copy/paste what the visitor wrote so as not to exclude their thought:

"The early bird gets the early worm or the discount flight ticket. Buying tickets at the last minute is a big no-no for somebody on a budget. The closer to the departure date, the more expensive the ticket will be, so try to book as early as possible."

Thanks for the comment NCF, but I'd prefer to keep this as ad-free as possible!