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How to find cheap last-minute flights

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

It’s been hard to plan ahead for a while now. If you want to enjoy a stress-free holiday when the world reopens, it’s more important than ever to know how to bag cheap, last-minute flights. Our tips will help you to find those flights, so you can enjoy a quick getaway whenever you’re ready to get back out there.

Note: While some countries are now opening to travellers from the UK, non-essential international travel is still not permitted from the UK until at least 17 May. When the time comes, always keep an eye on the government’s travel advice and the latest COVID-19 rules and regulations in your destination. And don’t forget to take advantage of Skyscanner’s handy tools, like flexible flight tickets and airline safety ratings.

Search flight deals in our app

Forget everything you think you know about how to find last-minute flights

Years ago, the best way to get last-minute flight deals was to turn up at the airport and ask for a standby ticket. Now so many people travel by air, the majority of flights sell out – and in some cases they get overbooked.

Nowadays, you can only get on the standby list if you:

  • Miss your own flight
  • Have a full price ticket and want to get on an earlier flight
  • Work at the airline. Even then, regular customers will have priority.

That said, with Skyscanner’s search tools it’s still possible to find cheap last-minute flights.

Sign up for price alerts

You won’t be the only person looking for cheap last-minute flights when the world reopens, but you can get ahead of other spontaneous travellers by signing up for price alerts.

  • Search for the flight you’re interested in
  • Click the Get Price Alerts button on the top left-hand side of the search results page
  • Enter your email address to sign in
  • We’ll send you an email whenever the price changes.

If you’re happy to sit tight and take a gamble, the price might drop right at the last minute.

You can click on Get Price Alerts on the Skyscanner website as a helpful way to keep in touch with last-minute flights

Read more about how to sign up for Skyscanner’s price alert emails

Be flexible about where you’re going

If you don’t have your heart set on a particular destination, you can often find last-minute flights to random places. You might end up in a gorgeous city that you’ve never even heard of before.

The easiest way to do this is to set ‘everywhere’ as your destination. This makes it easy to see the cheapest places at a glance.

You can set everywhere as your destination at the Skyscanner website and app

If you’re prepared to travel to another airport, setting UK as your departure point will give you even more options, as it takes every British airport into account.

Choose the most convenient airport near you for your last-minute flights

Use the whole month tool to find super last-minute flights

Flight prices are all based on supply and demand. Because some months are more popular than others, prices change throughout the year. For example it costs more to visit beach destinations during summer, and it costs more to visit cities when big events are on. The ‘whole month’ search tool is a great way to see cheap flights at a glance.

Use the whole month tool on the Skyscanner website to find super last-minute flights
  • Instead of choosing a precise date, choose ‘whole month’
  • Choose ‘cheapest month’ if you’re happy to plan ahead, or this month for last-minute flights
  • You’ll see a chart of the cheapest and most expensive days to fly
  • Click the day you’re interested in to start searching for flights.

Download the Skyscanner app

You can search for and book last-minute flight deals on the go with our app. You can track flight prices and see the cheapest days to book, just like on our desktop site. And don’t forget that you can also filter for flexible tickets, free cancellation, airline safety ratings and hotel cleanliness scores.

Although you’re not always guaranteed to find cheap last-minute flights, having these tools in your arsenal will make it easier to bag a bargain. Remember to check current FCDO travel advice before booking a flight, as well as coronavirus-related regulations in the country you’re planning to visit.

Last-minute flight hunting FAQ

How can I get a last-minute flight deal?

The best way to get a last-minute flight deal is to use our search tools. If you have a precise destination in mind, use our ‘whole month’ tool to see the cheapest prices this month at a glance. If you just fancy a holiday, but don’t care where, search flights to ‘everywhere’ to find the cities with the cheapest flights.

Is it better to wait for last-minute flights?

Waiting for last-minute flights is a gamble. While prices can drop if the airline still has lots of seats to fill, the flipside is that the price might go up if they’re close to selling out. But if you’re flexible about your destination, then it’s better to wait, as you can always find some great options on the Skyscanner website and app.

Can you still get cheap last minute flights?

Right now, non-essential travel is still not permitted from the UK. When this changes, it will all depend on whether the airlines will have seats to get rid of. Many of the budget airlines put their cheapest seats up for sale first, so prices tend to climb towards the departure date. If you choose a route or destination that’s less popular, you’re more likely to bag a bargain. Set up flight alerts and consider flying to (or from) a regional airport.

What do airlines do with unsold seats?

Airlines make a loss on unsold seats. This is why many of them overbook their flights: that is, selling more tickets than there is space on the plane. This controversial practice is widespread, with thousands of passengers per year being ‘bumped’ from flights. Unfortunately there’s no real way for airlines to know how many empty seats they’ll have until a few hours before departure, and by then it’s too late for them to sell them off cheap.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there? Find out which borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

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