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How to find cheap last-minute flights

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

Is there anything more satisfying than bagging cheap, last-minute flights? At the moment, it’s hard to plan ahead. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is constantly updating its list of travel corridors. Somewhere that doesn’t require quarantine this week might ask for it next month. If you want to enjoy a stress-free holiday, it’s more important than ever to know how to find last-minute flight deals.

Our tips will help you to find those extremely cheap last-minute flights, so you can enjoy a quick getaway.

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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’re not the only person looking for cheap last-minute flights, 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.

Signing up for price alerts is an easy way to find last-minute deals

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 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.

Being flexible makes it easier to find cheap last-minute flights

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.

You can sometimes find cheap last-minute flights if you change your departure airport

Use the whole month tool to find very 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.

Search across the whole month to find cheap flights at the last minute
  • 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.

Find out which destinations have last-minute flight deals

Our Best Time to Book tool shows how many weeks in advance you should book flights to get the cheapest prices. You can use the chart to find out whether it’s worth waiting for prices to drop, or if you should bite the bullet and book now.

Find The Best Time To Book 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.

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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. As more local lockdowns are imposed across the UK, it’s also worth checking your local guidelines to make sure you’re allowed to leave the country.

Discover where you can go

When you’re booking last minute flights right now, it’s good to know which countries have the fewest entry restrictions. Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

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. You can use the Skyscanner Best Time to Book tool to see which destinations tend to be cheaper closer to departure date, and which places it’s worth booking in advance for.

Can you still get cheap last minute flights?

While it’s less common to find last-minute flight deals now than it was a few years ago, there are still some great deals out there. It all depends on whether the airline has 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.

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