Credit: Suitesmile
April 2024

Travelling does not have to be expensive. With the right knowledge, travellers can visit their dream destinations for less than what the average traveller pays.

One popular method to save on airfares is by using miles, as covered in my previous articles on The Travel Insider.

But what if you do not have enough miles just yet?

In this article, I’ll be sharing the best method to browse for airfares, including some tips on when to book your flights, common mistakes to avoid, as well as how to credit your paid flights to a frequent flyer program.


Best method to browse airfares

The easiest and quickest way to search for airfares is on Google Flights.

On this platform, travellers can search airfares very quickly with a calendar or map view, instead of date-by-date or city-by-city. Users can also set multiple filters like price, airlines, cabin class and departure times to suit their preferences.

In the example below, a traveller looking to travel to North Asia for a 1-week trip in the month of May, with a roundtrip flight budget of S$600, may set the appropriate filters and see all matching flights. To see the results of multiple destinations, simply leave the “Where to?” box empty.



When is the best time to book your flights?

You may have read online articles suggesting something like “the best day to book flights is on Tuesdays”. While some of these claims came from popular travel agencies with statistics to back it up, it is simply too generic to count as a good travel tip, in my opinion.

For example, if you are booking a flight to Osaka just 2 weeks prior to the trip, you can pretty much expect to pay 2 to 3 times more than the average fare; it does not matter if you are making the booking on a Tuesday!

For the most part, airfares are pegged heavily to supply and demand of commercial travel between both cities. It is extremely rare for airfares to be cheaper last-minute.

You can probably see where this is going. To book a good fare, plan early. It’s really as simple as that.

But….how early? What if there is a fare drop after I make the booking?

Well, it depends on how “hot” those dates are. If you are planning to travel over peak travel periods like school or public holidays (like most other Singapore-based travellers), book your flights as early as possible.

If not, based on my experience, a good time to book your flights is around 3 to 6 months prior to the trip.


Here’s how I typically plan a (paid) flight booking on non-peak travel periods:

● As soon as I am thinking about a trip, I’d browse the calendar view on Google Flights (with all preferred filters), to that destination. This would give me a rough idea of what the best airfares are, throughout the year.

● Next, I’d look at the airfares around the dates that I am planning to travel.

● If the fares are among the cheapest around my dates, I would book them right away, once my trip-planning has firmed up.

● If they are a lot more expensive, I may be looking too early, or, there may be a major event at that destination, around my preferred travel dates (e.g. Formula 1, World Cup, Taylor Swift concert etc.). If I do not see any major events happening, I would set an alert on Google Flights, to receive an email whenever there is a fare change.

After selecting the flights on Google Flights, there is also a lovely price history chart to help me make a better decision!



Common mistakes to avoid

1) Not expanding airline consideration set

While most travellers have their own list of preferred airlines, it is a good idea to at least have a look at what other airlines are charging for the same flights. This is because, fares on other airlines may be substantially cheaper, and/or have flight departure/arrival times that suit your travel itinerary better. As shared above, travellers can compare airfares of multiple airlines on Google Flights.


2) Not pre-purchasing checked baggage allowance

When travelling on airlines that do not offer complimentary checked baggage allowance by default (e.g. budget airlines), travellers should consider pre-purchasing their baggage entitlement at the time of booking or online, before the travel date. This can result in big savings, as baggage entitlements purchased at the airport typically cost more.


3) Using miles for non-flight options

For best value, travellers should redeem miles for an entire flight ticket (one-way or round trip), and avoid making the following redemptions:

❌ Combine Miles + Cash when booking flights

❌ Purchase in-flight internet using miles

❌ Purchase checked baggage using miles

❌ Purchase meals/shopping vouchers using miles

❌ Upgrade flights using miles

However, if you have miles/points that are expiring soon, it probably makes sense to use them on something, instead of letting them vanish from your account.


4) Ignoring alternate airports

Some major cities have more than one airport, and there may be a big difference in flight prices to/from each of them.

Cities with multiple airports include:

London: Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), Stansted (STN), Luton (LTN), London City (LCY)

Tokyo: Narita (NRT), Haneda (HND)

Osaka: Kansai (KIX), Itami (ITM)

Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Don Mueang (DMK)

Seoul: Incheon (ICN), Gimpo (GMP)

New York: John F. Kennedy (JFK), Newark (EWR)


Earning miles on your paid flights

When flying on a paid fare, on full-service airlines (e.g. Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, All Nippon Airways etc.), travellers have the option to include their frequent flyer number in the booking, to earn miles on their trip.

On top of that, travellers can earn even more miles, when using the best cards for flight bookings.

To maximize rewards and earn miles on airfares, look out for credit cards that offer bonus earn rates on flight bookings.


Here are some great credit cards to consider:

1) UOB Lady’s Card: 4 miles per S$1 on flight bookings, up to S$1,000 per statement month (The Travel category must be pre-selected)

Sign-up gift: Be among the first 150 new-to-UOB credit card customers per calendar month to successfully apply for a UOB Lady’s Credit Card from 1 April 2024 to 30 June 2024 and spend a min. of S$1,500 per month for 2 consecutive months from your card approval date to enjoy a dining experience for 2 at Michelin-starred restaurants & a Jo Malone (worth over S$900)

2) KrisFlyer UOB Card: 3 miles per S$1 on Singapore Airlines and Scoot flight bookings, uncapped

Sign-up gift: New-to-UOB credit card customers to successfully apply for a KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card from 1 to 30 April 2024 and spend a min. of S$2,000 within 60 days from card approval date can get up to 31,000 miles and first year annual fee waiver.

3) UOB PRVI Miles Card: 6 miles per S$1 on flight bookings on selected airlines, booked via dedicated Expedia link, uncapped

Sign-up gift: New-to-UOB credit card customers to successfully apply for a UOB PRVI Miles Credit Card from 1 to 30 April 2024 and spend a min. of S$1,000 per month for 2 consecutive months from the card approval date can get up to 50,000 miles.


Take advantage of bank offers

Periodically, banks partner up with airlines and Online Travel Agencies to provide limited-time offers for airfares booked with an eligible card.

Here are some UOB airfare promotions that are running at the moment:

Airline/ Travel Agency Offer
China Airlines Up to 8% off published fare
Emirates Up to 10% off flights
Qatar Airways Up to 10% off flights
Qantas Airways 10% off base fare


Concluding thoughts

Flexibility and early-planning are two of the most important ingredients for saving money on flights. To maximize savings and rewards, travellers should also take advantage of bank promos, use the appropriate credit cards and credit their flights to a Frequent Flyer Program.

About the Author: Fai is the Founder of Suitesmile, a Singapore-based travel hacking blog where travellers can learn tips and tricks to travel smarter, as well as the best ways to earn and redeem credit card miles and points.



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