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Cheapest price or luxury upgrade – How to get the best of both worlds when booking flights from Heathrow Airport.

By Bethanie Ashley

Before you start booking your trip, take a minute to think… Consider why you are flying, who you might fly with and where you are flying to. If you are on a business trip and need to get there in time for a meeting then this may limit your options, similarly if it's a family holiday and you have push chairs etc. to contend with, it may not be practical to choose flights with a stop-over. That's not to say that you can't get a good deal. Save yourself time and be clear on what you need or don't need before you start your Heathrow Airport flights and booking.

Where to look

Once you know when and where you are going get as many quotes as possible. With so many options available it can be more than a little confusing, but these are my top tips on where to find the best deals:

• Online - all the airlines and travels agents have websites, and most are pretty easy to use. There are also lots of fare finder websites available such as Expedia, but ensure that these are ATOL protected before booking any flights – the ATOL logo will be clearly displayed if they are. Online searching is by far the quickest way to get a good range of quotes when looking to buy flights Heathrow Airport.
• Travel Agents - Most high street stores sell flights only as well as the standard package holidays. Get the best from your travel agent by calling first thing in the morning as they get busier as the day progresses.
• Newspapers – these work on the basis that advertisers buy flights in bulk to get good discounts that are then passed on to the customer.
• Teletext – an oldie but a goodie, teletext has some great deals, especially for the last minute market.

Getting the best deals

If you're after a bargain, here are some constructive ways to help you find the deal that ensures your money is spent on the actual holiday, not getting there.

• Book online and early – this may seem quite obvious but the budget airlines really do reward you for booking in advance. They take bookings up to 9 months before you fly and you quite often find the odd £1 flight! A word of warning though, they very rarely show the taxes until you are at the checkout, so be prepared to add an extra £20 - £30 or upwards, to account for this.

• Split Tickets – this involves a stop over at an interim airport and can reduce the cost of your flights considerably. If choosing this option try to ensure that it is the same airline completing both legs of the journey. Baggage handovers between different airlines can cause delays.

• Nested Tickets – these are ideal for business journeys or those departing and returning within the same week without a Saturday stop over. Airlines charge a premium for these type of journeys but there is a way around it.

For example, an airline quotes £150 for a return flight from Heathrow to Belfast going out on a Monday and coming back on the Friday of the same week but if you find a return that requires you to stay for a weekend and is priced £75 or less, it is worth buying a nested ticket.

Buy the £75 return ticket leaving on Monday and coming back late in the next week. Then buy another £75 return ticket with the outgoing flight from Belfast on the Friday of your return to Heathrow. The return journey of this second ticket should be dated early in the next week.

By doing this you basically get two return flights for the price of one! If you nest the tickets with consideration of future travel dates in mind you can make use of all the tickets and save money. It is a little confusing but if you do the research then you are bound to get a cheaper deal.

• e-bay style – you can now bid for tickets on Airlines will sell you tickets provided you make a reasonable offer. A good starting point is 20 – 30% less than regular fare prices much further below and it will be rejected. Ensure you read the small print as these deals often come with restrictions.

Creature Comforts

If you prefer luxury over cheapest cost, here's how choosing the right flight can make all the difference to flights from Heathrow Airport.

We all hate delays, there is nothing worse than waiting around, especially with bored children in tow. When searching Heathrow Airport book flights, pick the first to leave the airport that day. Delays accumulate throughout the day and by the second or third flight the delay can be quite substantial. This will not prevent delays caused by baggage handlers going on strike, but it's a good start!

Ask about the seat pitch. This is the distance between your seat and the one in front. Experts say a minimum of 31 inches for a 6 foot person on long haul is acceptable. If anyone in your party is over 6 foot you may wish to shop around based on this fact alone.

Pre-book your seats and additional extras in advance. Not all airlines let you do this but for a small fee, most will. Emergency exit seats and front rows provide the additional leg room essential for long haul flights. If you have young children and are travelling long distances seats near the toilets are also handy. Some airlines also have supplements that you can buy into for better in flight meals – if there is such a thing!!

So how can you get an upgrade? This is easier said than done and is most likely to happen by getting 'bumped'. Airlines quite often miscalculate passenger numbers and ask volunteers to be 'bumped' to the next available flight. They will offer all sorts of incentives including travel vouchers, cash, upgrades to business or club class, phone cards, food vouchers and much more. In my opinion travel vouchers are the best, as they will be worth more than any cash offered. Before agreeing to any upgrade, establish when the next available flight is likely to be. Is business class really worth a 5, 6, 7 hour or longer delay to your journey?

So now you know where to look and what to look for, you can ensure that you get the best deal for you. One website I found useful when booking was the Heathrow Information site, which links to online booking Heathrow through a whole host of travel agents, fare searcher websites and airlines. It's a quick easy reference to save you time and effort when getting your online quotes.

This article is free for republishing keeping links intact.
About the Author
Bethanie Ashley is a frequent traveller keen to pass on time and money saving advice to others. Further useful information such as how to get to the airport, Airlines, destinations, airport parking, travel insurance and foreign currency, can be found on the Heathrow Information, Air Travel Organisers' Licensing website.

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