I will be travelling to London in either the September school holidays or over the Christmas holiday break — the time of the year when flying costs change dramatically. British Airways cost around $2600, whilst Virgin Atlantic cost $1799 for dates in September/October. Which airlines have you used to London Heathrow? Should I travel on Virgin or another carrier? Can travel agents actually get airfares cheaper than the internet? Any other suggestions? Thanks, Overwhelmed
Photo: Ewan Munro
Finding cheap flights requires persistence and luck. I've personally only flown Qantas and BA into London from Australia, but that's because I'm a frequent flyer points hoarder. I have flown many other airlines into London from Europe and the US, and you have a lot of choices: there are more than 90 airlines which service Heathrow. For your particular situation, I'd offer these observations:
- Both those periods are (relatively) expensive. As a general rule, Christmas-period flights are pricier, so if you have a choice, the September school holidays will be a good option.
- There are many more airlines to choose from when flying to London, so don't restrict yourself to just BA and Virgin. The cheapest options often involve using an Asian carrier and changing in their hub city. Check stopover times in that case — it's not uncommon for the wait to be eight hours with some carriers, although in a few cases, you'll be offered a hotel room if that happens.
- Use a flight comparison site such as Zuji or Expedia to identify possibilities. My cheapskate advice is to use these to find flights, then check with the relevant airline sites — you'll often find a cheaper option that way. Rome2Rio is also useful (it covers services other than flights as well but is still excellent for identifying options in the air.)
- Remember that Heathrow isn't London's only airport. Some carriers also fly into Gatwick, which can potentially be more useful if your final destination is in the south of the city.
- It's rare these days for travel agents to find cheaper flights than what's available online, but it's not impossible. If you're not having any luck, it doesn't hurt to ask — but make sure you do online research first so you know if a genuine bargain is on offer. Double-check for any service charges, and resist any attempts to upsell you insurance, hotels or other services.
Good luck with the search! For more tips, check out our 10 best tactics for finding cheap domestic flights — most of those tactics are also applicable to international services.
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