7 Insider Tips: How to Book Cheap Flights Successfully (Updated: 2016)

“Just book the flights and everything will sort itself out later.”

For many years, this has been my mantra. And I’m not alone in this. Most of my traveler friends live by these words. Often, we snag promo fares from an online sale, and only then should we begin planning. The booking of the flight signals the birth of a trip. The ticket is the key. It is the way. It is the life. Wuw.

That’s not a surprise because most of the time, the most expensive part of travel is the airfare. Cheap hotels are easy to find. Cheap tours, too. But cheap tickets are hard to come by, right? Wrong. Over the past few years, the cost of a seat on a plane has gone down significantly (at least in this part of the world). Thanks to the rise of low-cost carriers and stiff competition, prompting even legacy airlines to offer budget options.

Finding cheap fares is not that difficult anymore. Yet, whenever airlines announce promos on their Facebook fan pages, they are bombarded with all sorts of complaints from users. While some of them have a point, some users just accuse the airlines of being deceptive, claiming that the sale is just some empty promise or a misleading marketing strategy. Some even go as far as saying that the SALE is not real.

Trust me, these promos are real. Just because you can’t find promo seats doesn’t mean they are not. I have availed of it a number of times already. But we understand where the negativity is coming from. Some get really frustrated because the promo seats don’t appear when they search.

I used to work as marketing consultant for two local airlines, so I somehow have a good grasp of how these sales work. And I compiled some tips on how to successfully book a promo flight. This applies to local airlines such as Cebu Pacific Air, AirAsia, and Philippine Airlines. Here we go.

1. Follow airlines’ social media accounts.

Stalk them on Twitter and Facebook. Gone are the days when they would surprise everyone. They now announce the sale days ahead.

It’s hard to know when exactly promos will happen, but there have been constant elements over the years: They launch special sales during holidays and important occasions. For example, to celebrate their anniversaries, airlines usually launch massive promos as a treat and a marketing stunt. They also usually have promos on Easter, Valor Day, Independence Day, and New Year’s Day among others. I’m referring to booking periods, not travel periods.

Many frequent travelers I know have turned on the GET NOTIFICATIONS feature of the FB page of airlines so they receive alerts. Downside, they are notified for other shit, too.

2. Book by small batches.

This is one thing I have proven so many times. When you book for so many people at once, the site displays “SOLD OUT.” But when you book for just one or two people, you can have that same flight (same plane, same day, same time).

For example, two weeks ago, during a promo, my friends and I were booking tickets to Cagayan de Oro. There were 5 of us. Every date we chose, we would get a SOLD OUT display. But when we tried just booking for two people, suddenly some slots became available. So what we did was book two flights and then my friend booked the same flight for three people using a different computer. In March, all 5 of us will fly to Cagayan de Oro.

3. Be quick and early. Book on the first day of SALE.

Perhaps the reason I always grab sale seats is because I book early. If the announced sale period is November 3-6, book on November 3. There’s a big chance there won’t be anything left in the following days. The number of seats in a plane is finite and they can only put a few of them on sale but the demand is so big that they tend to get sold out easily.

Some airlines replenish promo seats after a specified period of time so they’re evenly distributed throughout the sale period, but they don’t disclose the exact date and time. The easiest way remains booking at the start of the sale.

If you found cheap fares and you like the dates, book them fast. You have no idea how many users are eyeing those same seats at that moment and you will lose them soon. If you’re booking for other people, make sure you have their full names and birth dates (sometimes, passport numbers).

4. Book in the wee hours.

I know it sounds ridiculous but if you really want to grab a cheap seat, book in the wee hours of announced date of sale. The sale usually activates at 12 midnight. You will have more chances if you’re searching within the first hour.

Also, whenever there’s a sale happening, airline websites can’t seem to handle the volume of users trying to book at the same time, slowing down the system. This also leads to a lot of waiting times and errors. This is what you can avoid when you book while the rest of the world is in slumber.

5. Consider other dates.

If there are no more seats on your chosen dates, pick another. Obviously, weekends tend to get sold-out faster than other days of the week. Be flexible when it comes to dates and timings.

Be patient. I know it can get tiring clicking the Next Day/Previous Day button but if you really want it cheap, you shouldn’t mind going through all dates if necessary. If you have very specific dates that can’t be changed, then good luck to you.

6. Choose a not-so-popular destination.

Davao, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan seem to be the most loved destinations — they go “sold out” even before you consider booking. So come up with alternative places to visit that are also worth your time. For example, Dumaguete offers a heritage-rich experience as well as great beaches. Iloilo is your gateway to Guimaras where beaches are as stunning as in many provinces in the country. Laoag opens your doors to Pagudpud and the best of the Ilocos region.

Also, try using other gateways to the destination you wish to visit. Want to fly to Dumaguete but no more P1 seats? Try Cebu and just take a ferry to Dumaguete. This way, you’ll also get to explore Cebu. No more Caticlan seats? Kalibo is just two hours away. Going to Samar but no more Catarman or Calbayog seats? Try Tacloban. Be open to other possibilities.

Airlines actually disclose the number of available promo seats per sale. Just go to their website and check which destinations have a lot of seats on sale.

7. Check other airlines through Aggregator Sites.

Don’t get fixated with just one or two airlines. There may be other cheap seats sold by other carriers. You’ll be surprised. Sometimes, legacy airlines have cheaper offers than low-cost carriers. Whenever I plan on flying, I would check Kayak or SkyScanner first and compare fares. For example, for flights to Japan, China Airlines and Japan Airlines sometimes offer lower rates than Cebu Pacific or JetStar.

Additional Notes

Travel taxes and airport fees are now usually included when you book flights. For international flights, that’s P1620. Steep? Don’t blame the airline for it, blame the government.

There you go. Again, don’t forget to subscribe to the airline’s Twitter or Facebook alerts so you’re the first to know. 🙂

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  • marichu pagurigan

    everything that you have mentioned are true.. we’ve been very lucky to book ourselves everytime there’s a promo (though i was late to know of this 15Php thing!)
    there will be seat which are reserved at daytime and at 12am sharp, if they are left unpaid, they will be open for reservations..its just that you have to pay first business hour..

    the number of people also is a big factor, that’s why we limit our every reservation to 2, and then book another seat if needed..voila! we are reserved!

  • Hi! CEB usually starts the promo upon posting the advertisement at FACEBOOK OR TWITTER for the benefit of FB and TWITTER FANS!!! That’s what CEB told me when I asked the same question before. Now, if you are not a fan of the company, then sorry if you couldn’t avail the promo. For me, facebook is very useful when they are having a promo, it keeps u updated for you to book, choose and avail the very low fares without web traffic.

  • Travel Agencies

    My friend and I were thinking that these promos were purchased by travel agencies already and will sell it in a regular rate or use in their packages.

  • reda

    you may also want to add that there is a higher chance of getting the promo fares on weekdays, specifically, tuesday to thursday. 🙂

  • Eric de Leon

    This promotions by Cebu Pacific is very disappointing…. To the tips on how to book the “Piso Fare”, here’s my experience…
    Tip #1: Choose a not so popular destination
    DVDO-MNL-DVO route. I guess this is the other way from the usual. (fully booked)
    Tip #3: Book before the announced sale date
    So who get’s to know about the promotion before it’s announced to the public? Maybe
    this is an employee and employee friends benefit. What’s the applied mechanics in DTI?
    Tip #4: Book by small batches
    I tried to book for only 1 person. (fully booked)
    In summary, I was booking for 1 person from DVO-MNL-DVO at any date from 01 Oct. – 30 Nov. for any flight of the day – RESPOSE—FULLY BOOKED

  • nice blog. i love cebu pacific. i enjoyed & availed their promo every time i book..hahaha!

    • jelline

      papano k nakakuha ng ticket pls. inform m nmn aq

  • VR

    pwede po bang malaman how about po pag just within mindanao at mag by lang lang an then chek-in sa hotel n connected kau? like gensan to davao? what will be the accomodations and also the rate same p rin ba?

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  • Emher

    everything you mentioned are true! it is also true that most travel agencies have designated number of seats that are on sale since i have a tito who owns a travel agency and they are really given designation whenever a certain airline would a offer such. try to book on a tuesday and wednesday flight and you’ll get better change of getting the flight you want.

  • May mga kaibigan akong nagtatrabaho sa travel agency at ganito yung style nila para makakuha ng mga cheap na tickets. Bibilhin nila yung mga ganitong promo tapos bebenta nila sa regular price.

    • judy

      when you book and buy promo tickets, more often than not, it’s NON TRANSFERABLE, NON-REBOOKABLE, NON-REFUNDABLE. so even if they sell the promo ticket to regular rate, they have to pay more.

  • jelline

    paano po ba maka avail ng piso fare meron p po b para po makauwi n ung kpatid ko wala po kc sya pamasahe nsa davao po sya

  • These seat sales are legit. I can attest to that. Whenever there’s seat sale, I book in the wee hours and so far, effective din ang strategy na ‘to. hehe 🙂

    • The Poor Traveler

      I knoooow. Haha. Thanks for sharing Joann! 🙂

  • Badit

    My advice? Book one way tickets first, worry about the returning flight later!

    I recently booked for round-trip to Osaka via CebPac. The MNL-KIX tickets were P1.00 but the returning ticket was a whooping 10,499!!!

    I panicked that I won’t be able to get the piso fare so I immediately bought round-trip tickets!

    After about a month, the returning flight fare price dropped to just about 6,500 🙁 (from 10,499!!!)

    Lesson learned? More often than not, airlines will pad up the prices of the returning flight in order to compensate for the piso fare. So if your flight won’t be happening anytime soon, it’s better to just book for the promo seats first then book for the returning flight on another day 🙂

    • The Poor Traveler

      Nice observation, Badit! And you’re right!

    • ramil

      technique: book one way on separate bookings

  • Thanks for these tips. Will definitely share them with friends and other contacts! 🙂

    • The Poor Traveler

      No problem, Adelle! Please do share these tips!

  • Thanks for the tips! Nag try din ako mag magbook whenever there’s a seat sale, kaso most of them sold out na. But with your useful tips, baka maka-avail na ako. Hihi! Kadalasan naman online pa ako pag madaling araw, so, I’ll try to check the airlines site if meron.

    • The Poor Traveler

      Yep! Good luck! Sana makarami ka next time hehe

  • Henry

    Thank you soooo much PT….I’m a Believix…lol…follow/obey your tips.

  • judy

    i have done all of the above tips, and i must say have become an expert in booking promo fares. i have booked several flights this year and one destination costs no more than P1300 ROUNDTRIP. is that not a good deal?

    • eko

      Can you tell me the steps? I don’t know how to book piso fare. thank you 🙂

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  • Louis

    Good day! I am a fan of yours! Indeed i am amazed on how you travel into so many places and wil not cost you alot. I’ve been to some places but my girlfriend is the one who organized our travel and im just giving her money for our trip. (nakakahiya man po aminin pero wala ako ginagawa pag nagttravel kame) so I’m planning to organized a trip for me and my girlfriend. This blog helped mo alot since i dont know where to start and thinking to book a flight even its base fare is on their regular rate. Thank you and i hope i can contact you if i have any questions. :p Indeed i am thankful for this blog! Can you email me for tips? since im a newbie when it comes to booking and searching for places to go and top places to eat. Thank you sir. Godbless! louis.broncano@yahoo.com

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