The ‘in’ on buying group flights in bulk
The world of airlines and buying group flights is a complicated one. Here is some insider knowledge to help you fly to China that bit cheaper.
Not all (economy class) tickets were created equal
While we might think of plane ticket classes in terms of economy, business and first class tickets, its more complicated than that.
Airlines create ‘booking classes’ within economy, business and first class, which determine the ticket price of a seat. While you might think your ticket should cost the same as Mr Wang in seat G34 next to you, ticket prices actually change massively depending on: when and where the ticket was sold, the number of airlines offering the same flight route, the numbers of people from various countries buying tickets from each airline and much more. In fact there are a whole range of reasons why your ticket might be more expensive than wised-up Wang’s.
Group economy tickets are a prime example of a booking class. When people book more than 10 tickets at a time, airlines take into account the different needs, demographics and trends of this group of people and adjust the system – and their fares – accordingly. While that might not always mean the cheapest tickets available, what’s great about buying group flights is that airlines know the difficulty of simultaneously gathering all passport details and enough money to buy many tickets at the same time. With group tickets, its possible to put down deposits for a number of seats, enter passport details later and pay the full amount closer to the date.
How to beat the system: all airlines will have a separate class for group tickets. The key is to find the airline with the cheapest group ticket, which often isn’t the cheapest airline! What’s more, other factors, like the deposit cost of each seat and the flexibility of the number of reserved tickets also contribute to determining which is the airline is best to go with.
Early bird doesn’t always catch the worm
Booking early-on isn’t always the best idea. While airlines release individual flight tickets many months in advance, they don’t release tickets for group booking until 11 months before the flight. Even then, the prices always aren’t always the cheapest. Contrary to normal economy tickets, group ticket prices are often likely to decrease as time goes on. But that’s not the only factor determining price – the time of year when you purchase the flight changes the price too. Autumn is generally a more expensive time to book group flights because airlines assume schools, once back in session, will start planning trips for the forthcoming year.
Its a guessing game, however, as to how long to wait to buy before the tickets reserved for group booking will run out.
How to beat the system: Booking for group tickets opens 11 months before a flight departs but often the best time to find cheaper group tickets is between 10-8 months prior to departure.
Bulk buying isn’t always the cheapest option per flight!
You cant always get that miracle flight price as seen on sky scanner for all twenty tickets if you book through a booking agent.
Sometimes you might be able to find a ticket on sky scanner for two thirds the price of what the airlines are offering for group tickets. This comes back to the booking classes idea, airlines will often offer up their last couple of tickets from one booking class on sky scanner while keeping the group tickets at another price
How to beat the system: Waiting on sky scanner or another price comparison website to provide you, at the last minute, the cheapest fare for your destination and intended dates of travel is possible but a very, very risky business. Moreover, if that miracle flight comes up on sky scanner , whether or not you have the passport details of the group to hand and the money to pay for them is a different matter… Maybe there isn’t always a way to beat the system after all.
For more information on how to budget for your school trip to China and organise other aspects of your visit, visit our learning resources page.