Why One Cent Flights Will Cost You More Than One Cent

Why One Cent Flights Will Cost You More Than One Cent

One Cent Flights officially launched itself in Australia last week, promising “cheap flights to your dream destination”. You can potentially score a bargain flight through the service, but the odds aren’t good and it will cost you far more than one cent to do so. Here’s why.

One Cent Flights uses a “bidding” model. Flight auctions are listed on the site between a pair of destinations, but without a specific flight or airline attached. Each has an initial price of 1 cent. Every time anyone makes a bid, the price goes up by one cent. When the auction ends, whoever has the final bid gets the ‘ticket’, and can then book actual flights (with all taxes and basic luggage) included through a nominated travel agent. Recent deals listed on the site include a Sydney-Adelaide return for $2.30 and a Melbourne-Perth return for $6.20. But — and it’s worth stressing this — that isn’t the actual price you’ve paid.

When you sign up, you get five bid credits, and you can get more by referring other users. But the main way to get bid credits is to buy them. A bundle of 10 credits costs $10; 20 cost $18; 50 cost $40; 100 cost $70; 200 cost $120.

With that in mind, let’s look at that $6.20 Melbourne-Perth price again. If every one of those bids represented a paid-for credit, One Cent Flights has made $620. It’s possible to get a return flight to Perth for $450, so there would be quite a large potential profit there. The profit could be much lower or even non-existent — many people will use free credits and serious bidders might have bought the $120 bundle — but in the long run, a flight listed as $10 in One Cent Flights “money” might still be a profitable enterprise.

Note also that while the auctions have an ‘end time’ specified, the countdown timer resets back to 10 seconds if a bid is made within that time frame. In other words, there’s likely to be a lot of last-minute bidding taking place, which means you could spend a lot of money fairly quickly.

As with any deal, it also pays to check the terms and conditions carefully. For instance, all the flights currently listed on the site are blacked out for a month from December 15 — no Christmas discounts here. You have to book at least two weeks in advance.

Ultimately, I would rather put $120 into my travel fund and use that to buy a specific ticket (following our tips on how to score cheap flights). Even if you take that view, there’s no harm in signing up and using the free credits on offer, though you’ll need to hang around the site right near closing time to have any chance of actually winning. Just remember: the price you see on screen isn’t what you’ve actually paid.


  • This is no different to that Quibids bulls***.
    Anyone who gets sucked into this kind of thing kinda deserves to be ripped off.

      • Because people who are so desperate for a “good deal” and too stupid to get informed, check the fine print or do 10 seconds of research on Google, are dumb, are stupid, do deserve to be ripped off. The reason spam and these sites exis are because of idiots, and it annoys the rest of us who have to wade through the tripe because of all the dumb people online.
        Ridiculing those who get scammed is great, because they’re too dumb to change their ways, and the rest of us are sick of warning them. It’s just another Internet blood sport, big deal.

  • I’ll admit to having wasted $20 on one of those penny auctions scam sites before realizing that there was no way I was ever going to win and that the seller was making thousands on ever iPad they sold. Stay away. They’ve found a new way to combine pokies with purchases.

  • I actually won the auction for return flights from Melbourne to Adelaide for $2.30 and that is all I paid! I managed to win the auction with the bids provided upon sign up. With smart bidding you can use these websites to your advantage. Where else could I have got a return flight for such a good price??

    • Good luck to you — but my inner pedant would point out that if you only used the five bids, you didn’t pay $2.30 — you paid nothing! So however you look at it, it’s not an accurate price 🙂

      • I managed to only use 2 of my 5 free bids and yes you are still required to pay the final auction price in addition to the cost of the bids so in my case $2.30 was all I paid. I have previously used used Quibids and won several items from there also.

        If people don’t understand the concept these sites and complain when they ‘lose’ their money they simply should not sign up.

      • You still have to pay the price that it is at the end of the auction on top of your bids which are essential $1 ea!

    • My mother has some great stuff off sites like this and if you don’t bid to last min, set yourself a limit of bids then yeah you could score a great deal! Ok so add an extra $5 to the price listed … still a cheap flight if you manage to win!

  • I won an auction on One Cent Flights and I paid $120 for two return flights to Sydney from Adelaide (worth approx $600 on the cheapest websites) so it IS good buying. You just have to be aware of how to use it. You obviously haven’t done your research – the clock resets at 10 seconds not 20. The site informs you of the cost. We flew with Qantas, excellent service. We could not be more happy. And so what if they’re making a profit? Isn’t that why people go into business? Check your facts before you start bad mouthing a perfectly good company!

  • I dont see how/why the business model used is criticised here. I think its an ingenious business model. Every business has a “model” for which they operate and hope to profit from. Every single business. A $25 meal in a restaurant might only cost $6 for them to have bought, but i dont criticise and say “i could have got this myself for $6”. The restaurant needs to profit, else it wont be there!

  • So I’ve used the website and won a flight to Singapore… Sure, I didn’t pay exactly the twelve odd dollars that my flight ‘cost’ on the website but the 20 dollars I did spend on bids (of which I only used a few) was a lot less than $1200 return flight I was looking at on skyscanner… So… I’m a huge fan…

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