"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Getting a Good Deal on a Last Minute Flight

Winnipeg is a three day drive from where I live so I had to take a flight out for my Friday interview. I didn't have much time to research flights and I had to be in Winnipeg for a certain date and time. Add to that that flights within Canada are generally much more expensive than flights outside the country. I expected to disburse at least 500$. With some savvy, I came in at 370$, a genuine bargain.

Here are some of the factors that enabled me to get this awesome deal.

1) Knowing My Resources

The first place I check when looking for flights is expedia.ca. Expedia sums up nicely exactly who is flying to my destination from my city. It claims that it finds the best deal, but I find that's rarely the case. So, now that I know which carriers provide service, on to step 2.

2) Going Directly to the Airlines

I often get a bit of a look from people when I say that I buy directly from the airlines. Yet, I have have never found as good a deal on 'discount' sites as I have by going directly to the airlines. It could have something to do with the type of travel I do or the destinations I'm going to. For example, I doubt I would book a flight to Cuba directly from a carrier since I'm certain I could get a better 'all inclusive' deal from a sun-vacation specialist. Once I'm on the airline websites, I search for my dates and go on to step three.

3) Keeping An Open Mind

I didn't want to take a lot more time off work, so I hoped to fly out after work on Thursday and then fly home mid-afternoon Friday. Both Air Canada and WestJet offered flights ranging from 134$ to more than $1,000. I focused on Thursday first. According to Air Canada, I had two options:

a) leave my home airport at 6:20AM (meaning be at the airport for 4AM!) and fly directly to Winnipeg for 134$;
b) leave my home airport later in the day and pay $500 for a mid-morning departure or $700 for a later day departure that would take me through Toronto, extending the length of the journey from two and a half flight hours (plus airport time) to seven flight hours (plus airport time). There was also the 'executive' class flights that were in the +$1,000 range.

Westjet, had very similar prices and options, but offered a 2:10PM 'seat sale' on a direct flight to Winnipeg for 134$. It would involve taking an extra day off work, but this was a pretty sweet deal.

Then, I looked at my Friday options. Air Canada's prices for mid to late Friday were comparable to Thursday's, but they did have a direct flight leaving at 8:45PM for $134. Westjet, on the other hand, offered flights that were only in the $500+ range. Which brings me to the final step.

4) Not Hesitating

I weighed all my options and decided to take an extra day off work, fly out at 2:10PM Thursday on Westjet and fly home Friday at 8:45PM on Air Canada, for a total cost between the two of about $370. I bought the tickets immediately knowing that 'sleeping on it' would result in flights filling up and cheap seats no longer being available. I knew that the price was excellent and that I couldn't hope for anything much better than that.

Interestingly enough, the base cost of the flight was the same for both, but Westjet wound up costing me $10 less. I could have saved $5 with Air Canada by stating that my luggage was carry on only, but would have then had to shell out $50 if something in my luggage was deemed inappropriate for carry on. With the way regulations are now, I decided not to take a chance and ponied up the $5.

This was my first time buying one way tickets so that I could fly on separate airlines, but it worked out great. My Friday flight was a half hour late departing, so I got home insanely early Saturday morning, but at least it was Saturday morning and not Sunday.

The timing of my flights also meant that I was able to enjoy Thursday evening in Winnipeg and a full day on Friday.

This was my first time flying Westjet and I was very impressed. There's a wee bit more legroom and they actually serve a snack with the drinks. So does Air Canada, but you have to pay for the snack. :-)

Now that I know that a deal for Winnipeg can be found, I'm not so nervous about needing to return for other interviews or, best of all, a home hunting expedition!

No comments: