Are “Piso Fares” real?
Yes and no. Yes, because when airlines say PISO FARE, they refer to the base fare, the cost of the plane ticket. And yes, they can go as low as P1 or even zero at times. No, because there will be other charges to be added to the fare such as web admin fees and government taxes. Regardless, these promos will give you huge discounts and will allow you to travel on the cheap!
With 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 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. Many of our trips became a reality because of these cheap fares. I have availed of it many times. But we understand where the negativity is coming from. Some get really frustrated because the promo seats don’t appear when they search. And when they do appear, it’s difficult to pin them down.
There are many reasons for this:
- The number of seats on sale available is limited. They can’t put all the seats on sale. Airlines usually publish the number of seats on sale PER DESTINATION on their website so be sure to check it out.
- Their websites suck. They promote their sale to no end, but their website can’t handle the traffic surge, sometimes leading to downtimes and slowing down.
- Your connection sucks too. A slow internet connection will complicate things more.
I used to work as marketing consultant for two local airlines and a global travel aggregator site, so I somehow have a good grasp of how these sales work. It takes skill! You need to be fast and precise.
Here are some tips on how to successfully book a promo flight based on my experience as a frequent flyer and as an insider. 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. Sign up for an account before the sale.
This way, you don’t need to type in your details when it’s time to book. Many airlines put a time limit on each booking session. Signing up for an account means you don’t need to type your personal info and credit card details each time you book.
But that’s not all. Register for an account with their Reward Programs too. Airlines usually hold sales that are EXCLUSIVE to members of their Loyalty Programs! That’s AirAsia BIG for AirAsia, GetGo for Cebu Pacific Air, and Mabuhay Miles for Philippine Airlines.
AirAsia flights are also sometimes made available with more discounts for registered users of their hotel aggregator sites AirAsiaGO and partner Expedia.
3. Be ready with your companions’ personal details and preferences.
Collect all your companions’ personal details beforehand. Don’t ask your friends for their details and preferences when you’re already in the process of booking. It’s super stressful! Friends take forever to reply! Also because like I said, your booking session might expire. Worse, someone else might book the seat you’re eyeing while you and your companions are still deliberating. Happened to me multiple times: Just when we’ve finally decided, poof, it’s gone.
So before the sale, decide on the following:
- Alternative Destinations (as Plan B, in case you don’t find fares)
- Travel Dates
- Preferred Time
Here are the personal details you need from your companions:
- Full name (including middle name and as written on passport)
- Birth date
- Email address
- Contact number
- Passport Number (some airlines require this)
- Passport Expiry Date (some airlines require this)
While you’re at it, ask them too if they prefer aisle or window seat and meal choice, if they’re willing to pay for them. LOL.
4. 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, once, 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. All 5 of us flew to Cagayan de Oro on the same flight.
There are risks, though! These may be the last 2 or 3 seats so if you’re a big group, there’s always a chance you’ll end up taking different flights.
5. 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).
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Another trick is to use a VPN to conceal or change your location. Some promos are available only in specific territories. Changing your IP address to that location will allow you to avail of those promos too.
There are also stories online that suggest that using a VPN will allow you to see more cheap fares because they are shown to new, first-time users more than return visitors.