Budget charter flights could be a great option if you’re looking to get away for a bargain holiday. Here's a rundown of the whats, wheres and whens of getting a great deal.
1. What is a charter flight?
Charter flights are made to order flights by package holiday operators – Thomson, Thomas Cook, Monarch, First Choice and the like – for ferrying their holiday makers. As the holiday operator books the whole plane, there's often spare capacity on the flight which they can offer very cheaply to flight-only customers.
2. Charter flight myths
If you thought charter flights only fly to sun and sangria destinations, think again. Yeah okay they do take package holiday makers to the Canaries and the Spanish Costas, but charter airlines these days also fly all over the world. Egypt? Check. Barcelona? Check. Rome? Check. You can get as far afield as Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean or India.
If you’re smart and book at the right time, it can be the cheapest way to get a city break or long haul flight.
Comparing prices between a budget airline, Ryanair, and a charter flight with Monarch, flying out from Leeds-Bradford to Barcelona International on Monday 2nd - Friday 13th September, Ryanair comes in cheaper than Monarch:
Don't always be fooled though. After add ons (including luggage fees) Monarch comes in at £117.94, whereas the Ryanair flight inceases to £131.98 (searched on 19th June 2013)
It’s all about being flexible and shopping around.
3. Leave it late or book ahead?
With charter airlines good late deals are often available. When a charter airline has sold the majority of its seats, it then decides to sell the spare seats at cheaper prices. The savvy, web-smart traveler can use this to their advantage. The price often drops a day or two before the flight.
The travel operator has booked the flight already, so you hold the cards in many respects. There’s often spare seats which they want to fill, and they’ll sell them off very cheaply – hey, it’ll only go to waste if you’re not onboard, so why not? You’ll also feel pretty smug all the way there, knowing everyone else has paid way more than you have for the same service!
And once you’re off the plane, you can leave the package holiday-makers behind and explore for yourself.
Last minute deals on Monarch from East Midlands to Alicante can weigh in at between £300 and £82; the flights are within the space of ten days. Big difference, right? Here’s that F word again - flexibility. If you don’t mind delaying your trip a few days and shop around you can get the cheap tickets.
Book far enough in advance or leave it last minute and you can get yourself a decent deal. Anywhere in the middle is a bargain hunter’s wasteland. Your choices are make up your mind early or wait until the last minute.
4. Use their airport location to your advantage
Alicante serves as the airport for package deals to Benidorm. So while the other passengers pile on their coaches headed for sun, sangria, and fish and chips in English pubs, you can say adios and get into exploring the real urban Spain or hop on a train and go pretty much anywhere in Europe.
You may need to be more flexible than you would on a scheduled flight, but if you can be, then you’ll be rewarded with extra cash to spend when you get to your destination.
5. City options
The bases for the big package holiday companies include the big city airports as well as the smaller regional ones - Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bradford-Leeds, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Doncaster-Sheffield and Teesside. The regional option could save you a trip to Heathrow for that flight to Mexico.
6. Key points to remember
- Leave it late or book early. Anywhere in between and the costs are considerably higher.
- Don’t set your heart on a particular date. As with any kind of cheap flights the more flexible you can be the better the deal you’ll get.
- Think outside the box. A charter flight to Alicante doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend your holiday in Benidorm.
- Look at smaller or regional airports that are usually out of the question for bigger scheduled flights - Bristol to Florida for £400 return, anyone?