Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Going on holiday has just got a whole lot more expensive thanks to a recent rise in Air Passenger Duty (APD).
The latest blow to household budgets will see hundreds of pounds added to family travel costs. APD increased by 2.5% from 1 April 2013, making a 6% rise since 2001. A survey shows that 81% of MPs agree or agree strongly that APD could price some people out of flying.
Not only is the pound weaker meaning you might get less for your money than you did several years ago with some currencies, you also face sky-high charges for flights.
With overseas holidays costing us all more, it’s crucial to save money in any way possible when you’re planning your next holiday. Here are a few top tips on how to get the best deals on your flights.
APD is an tax which is chargeable to passengers being carried from a UK airport. This usually only applied to those travelling on chargeable aircraft but since 1 April 2013, this has been extended to passengers carried on an aircraft of 5.7 tonnes or more, regardless of whether they were carried for a fee.
The rate of APD depends on the destination you’re heading to. Typically there are four bands of destination based on the distance between London and the capital city of the place you’re going to.
Since the Budget kicked in, each destination band will have three individual rates of APD depending on the class of travel and the type of aircraft. So, in total there are 12 different rates of duty. It seems confusing but all you have to worry about is the 2.5% rise in tax:
|Bands (approximate distance in miles for the UK)||Reduced rate (lowest class of travel)||Standard rate (other than the lowest class of travel)||Higher rate|
|Band A (0–2,000 miles)||£13||£26||£52|
|Band B (2,001–4,000 miles)||£67||£134||£268|
|Band C (4,001–6,000 miles)||£83||£166||£332|
When APD was first introduced in 1994 it was just a £5 tax to fly within the UK and £10 for anywhere else. Since then it as sharply risen and will continue to do so. The UK’s APD is one of the world’s highest and it will now cost travellers heading to New York £268, up from £260 last year. And a family visiting Australia will have to fork out £376, up from £368. Those heading to continental Europe will not face a price hike.
1. Pick your destination carefully
With such big increases for Band D destinations, picking the right holiday spot could make a big difference. It may surprise you which band some countries fall into. For example, if you wanted to travel to North Africa; Morocco, Tunisia and Libya are all in Band A, whilst Egypt is in Band B, costing a family of up to £536 and more if travelling standard class.
Flight comparison sites or screen scrapers are a really simple way to find cheap flights. All you have to do is enter your requirements (dates and destination) and they scan the web for the cheapest flights from various airlines as well as some flight brokers. The problem with screen scrapers is that they don’t search every site so you should use at least two to cover all bases. Try Kayak, Liligo and Skyscanner (below), which is our flight comparison tool.
Once you’ve compared flights you should also check the flight brokers such as and ebookers, Expedia, Lastminute.com and lastly Opodo, which is particularly helpful because it has 5 clever ‘AirTools’ designed to help you find exactly what you’re looking for including CombiFlight, EscapeMap, MyAirline and FlexiFlight.
As with train tickets if you don’t mind taking an indirect route to your destination you could save yourself a small fortune. And, as long there’s at least 24 hours between the arrival time of your first flight and the departure time of your second, you only pay tax on the first flight. For example, if you wanted to fly to Australia, you could save money on tax by stopping over at Singapore or Bangkok instead – plus you’d get to see another city!
Remember this only works if you book and pay for two separate flights, not connecting flights, so do check any visa requirements. Be warned that this will affect your rights in terms of flight cancellations, or missed connections, which would typically be covered by the airline if it was a connected ticket.
4. Claim your tax back
According to a recent Skyscanner poll, over half of all travellers don’t realise they can claim the tax back if they don’t travel. So, if you’re unable to fly you’re well within your rights to claim the tax back from the airline – unfortunately some may charge an admin fee for this.
But check if this is feasible at all with your tour operator. Thomas Cook Airlines is the only one of the nine major airlines operating from the UK that refuses to issue any refund. So a family of four will lose £332 in APD if they cancel a Thomas Cook flight to India, or £268 for destinations such as Florida and Gambia.
6. Time your holiday perfectly
There are some serious savings to be made if you book early and avoid the holidays – not just the obvious periods such as Christmas but also half terms and Bank Holiday weekends. If you can, fly during the week instead of Friday to Sunday which generally costs more.
If you’ve missed the boat on early bookings, all is not lost. If you book as late as possible and can be flexible about where you go, there are some great bargains to be had.
Various credit cards offer free flights as an incentive to sign up so if your credit rating is good enough to apply these can save you the cost of your holiday next year. The rule here, however, is to make sure you can repay any debt immediately so that you don’t pay any interest which could cancel any benefit from a free flight.
Here are some to choose from:
8. Get rewarded with free travel whilst you shop
Nectar has partnerships with several travel companies, including Expedia and Eurostar, so when you book online you simply enter your Nectar card number when asked and the points are awarded within 28 days. Every 500 points is worth £2.50, but look for double value offers where 500 points = £5. The best thing about this is that you can spend them with easyJet, meaning cheap flights for you!
Avios have replaced airmiles and there are over 200 places to collect them including high street shops, petrol stations, restaurants and more.
Alternatively, if you’ve got a favourite airline they often offer frequent flyer miles as a thank you which can then be exchanged for a free flight. Or, use the likes of Oneworld and Star Alliance which have partnered lots of different airlines and also offer this reward.
9. Don’t pay extra baggage fees
Baggage fees are a lot of hassle and cost a packet. In the last year alone, low-cost airlines baggage fees have soared by as much as 67 per cent – 24 times the rate of inflation. If that wasn’t enough;,some of them have increased their booking fees too. Most of the low-cost airlines also charge baggage fees so a family of four travelling with Ryanair could end up paying a massive £360 in baggage fees alone at £45 each person, each way! It could be cheaper booking with a more expensive airline.
Lastminute.com offers ‘secret’ flight deals telling you only which city your flight leaves from and arrives at, and how long it’ll take. Only once you’ve booked will you be sent the name of the airline, airport and departure times. The idea behind this is that airlines can offer low prices to you without having to put their name to it which could affect their direct trade. The same principle applies to the ‘secret’ hotel deals too so it’s always worth checking both out when you’re making your travel plans.
11. Don’t fly!
Flying isn’t the only way to travel – you could save a fortune by taking a coach or train. Eurolines operates all over Europe and fares to Ireland, Paris, Amsterdam and other destinations start from just £38 return. Raileurope is another useful site for booking cheap train travel and Seat61.com will be valuable if you need some help organising the route you need to take anywhere in the world.
12. Get the latest deals straight to your inbox
Save yourself time and effort by signing up to newsletters to get travel bargains emailed to you. We like the Travelzoo.com newsletter which sends the top 20 bargains around on the internet and don’t forget to sign up to our FREE weekly newsletter which includes four handpicked travel deals just for you Moneymagpies!