Knowing You Found a Bargain Airfare

Let’s say you want to spend a month in Europe next summer and need to find a cheap airfare deal. You’ve looked at the fares available on ITA Matrix, but aren’t really sure if the prices you see are a bargain or a rip-off.  If you’ve never had a need to search for cheap airfares to Europe before it might not be easy to know if you’re actually getting a good deal.

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So how does one know for sure? You could try to find some historical prices or you could wait around and check the fares regularly over the course of a month (not a good plan if you’re departing in <2 months) but both of these options have drawbacks. Here is an option that I use so I know exactly if I’m getting a good deal or not … even if I know nothing about what the ticket prices “should” be.

Use the Price Per Mile as a Guide

Example: A Ryanair flight from Budapest, Hungary to Eindhoven in the Netherlands could cost you just $18. It’s about 680 miles directly between these two cities, making this ticket cost just 2.64 cents per mile. That’s a great deal!

Taking lots of flights around the world, and comparing the cost of countless plane tickets, I wanted to share this chart to give you an understanding of the possibilities. It is something I often use when booking flights, but I find it particularly useful when booking flights on budget airlines, as some of these low-cost carriers want you to think that every flight they sell is a great bargain – when that isn’t true at all.

Sample Data to Consider

Here are some sample flights with one-way fares and mileage shown.

Mileage     /     One Way Ticket Price     /                         Origin & Destination                         /        Price Per Mile

   3600                                 425                                               New York to Paris, France                                         .118

    680                                   18                                       Budapest, Hungary – Eindhoven, NL                                .0264

   1500                                 120                               Muscat, Oman – Thiruvananthapuram, India                            .08

   6500                                 330                                       New York – Tashkent, Uzbekistan                                      .05

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   4000                                 120                                       Burlington, VT, USA to Lima, Peru                                      .03

   1650                                 130                                  Burlington, VT, USA to Denver, CO, USA                              .0787

   3150                                 360                                   Shanghai, China to Colombo, Sri Lanka                               .114

    375                                  175              Singapore to Penang, Malaysia (AirAsia during holiday season)          .4666

     28                                  1000                        Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia                     .028

Which Flight is a Good Deal?

Of course the Burlington, VT to Lima, Peru and Budapest to Rotterdam flights easily beat out the other airfares for the best value, but there are other good fares on this list too. For example, getting from New York to the exotic Central Asia capital of Tashkent for just 5 cents per mile is an awesome bargain.

GUIDELINE RULE: Anything cheaper than 8 cents per mile is a good price. Anything below 5 cents per mile is a great price.

Why is the AirAsia Fare to Penang, Malaysia Ridiculously Expensive?

knowing-you-found-the-cheapest-airfareIt’s because this sample fare is what you might expect to pay to fly during a peak holiday week, even if you book 6 months or more in advance. It is not a good deal at all… in fact at almost 50 cents per mile!  You are far better off to travel by train.

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While AirAsia and other budget airlines don’t always have cheap flights, a little advanced planning and watching for sales can get you a great deal.  AirAsia flights to common destinations (particularly between AirAsia hubs) can be dirt cheap if purchased in advance.

If you don’t need to check any bags, decline trip insurance, the “comfort kit,” an assigned seat and all other “extras” and go from Borneo from Kuala Lumpur for just 2.8 cents per mile – that’s a fantastic price.

Do You Own Calculation

When calculating the value of your own airfare bargains, just remember to find the distance between your origin city and your final destination city for your itinerary. For example, if you’re looking at a ticket from Chicago to Sao Paolo, find the distance directly between those two cities. Even if you have connections and are changing planes in Atlanta, Charlotte, or anywhere else, the stops are not a part of this calculation.

google-distance-measuring-tool-for-flight-distance-1024x469

Use the Google Distance Measurement Tools to find the distance

The Google Distance Measurement tool does just what you think it might – it measures the distance between places. You can use this tool to find the distance between your departure and arrival cities. Here’s how to get it setup (courtesy Google Inc):

  1. Visit maps.google.com.
  2. Click the Maps Labs link at the bottom of the left-hand panel.
  3. Enable the Distance Measurement Tool.
  4. Click Save changes.
  5. Click the ruler icon at the lower left-hand corner of the map.

Click your starting point on the map, then click your destination point to trace the path. A red path will appear on the map between the two locations, and the distance will be shown in the left panel.

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