SpiceJet may have got into trouble with the regulator for offering air tickets priced as low as Rs 1. But while it lasted, the scheme was a hit with travellers. Not just SpiceJet but other airlines like Jet Airways, IndiGo, Go Air and Air India had come out with discount schemes offering tickets at Rs 2,000-3,000 and in some cases even below Rs 1,000.
This is the time of the year when most of us plan our summer holidays. A chunk of holiday expenses will have to be earmarked for travel, especially if you plan to fly.
If your family of four is planing to fly for the summer holidays, plan ahead and book well in advance to avail of cheap fares. But booking in advance may not always be possible. In such a situation many of us end up booking tickets closer to the date of travel.
At first glance the dealsoffered by airlines may seem to be extremely attractive. But there are catches. Travellers need to be aware that what they finally get may not be the same as what seemed to be on offer. However, this does not mean that these deals offer no savings at all. If you are able to bag a good deal then it can be quite profitable. However, it is always better to look at the pitfalls that can crop up along the way before pinning too much hope on these offers. Here is a look at some dampeners in these otherwise mouth-watering airline ticket deals. Specific sectors
One of the features of several of these schemes, especially the low fare ones, is that these are not available for all the sectors that the airline covers. For instance, the lower fare might be available for Bangalore-Kolkata, but if you want to go from Mumbai to Jaipur then it might not be available. Then the low fares are of no use to you.
Often these low fares are not available for sectors that see high traffic. So, one must always check where the low fares are applicable and if they match one's requirements. Number of tickets
Even if the airline offers low fare tickets for the sector you plan to fly to, another problem is that the number of tickets that are actually available at the low price is limited. You may read about the offer in an advertisement and decide to book. But by the time you actually get down to doing it, you may find that the tickets are no longer available.
Often, there are very few seats in a flight on which the low fares are applicable. In some cases this can be as few as two to three per flight. So, unless you are one of the lucky few who manage to get those seats, it will be very difficult to get the low fare tickets.
The lower the number of cheap seats on a flight, the lower is the probability that you will actually get a low cost ticket as these are likely to be sold very quickly. Base fare
It is also important to understand how these promotional deals actually work. The cut in the price that is promoted is actually on the base fare. You need to know the various parts that actually make up the total price of the ticket, in order to know the overall savings.
There are three main components of airfares - base fares, airline charges and taxes. If you look at the break-up of any ticket the base fare is actually a small component of the total fare. When this is cut there is no impact on the other two figures. The end result is that savings may not be very significant, even if the promotional offer may say otherwise.
The cut in the base fares should not be seen in isolation. It has to be considered in terms of the final impact on the total amount that you actually end up paying. This is the figure that you must compare with the amount that you would normally pay. And if there is a real saving then the final cost has to be lower. In most cases it is seen that the saving even if it happens is not as much as one would have thought. This is because the discounts do not apply to taxes and other additions in the fare calculations. This eventually pushes up the final cost. Time period
The time period for which the promotional fares are run is also important, because these are not open-ended offers. There are two components to the time period that is covered. The first is the time when the tickets have to be booked and the other is the time period when the travel has to take place. Usually, the time period for the booking of the tickets is very less, between two to three days. So, you have to do your booking within this short period. It is better to do your booking as early as possible during the offer because it improves your chances of getting a good deal.
Since there is also a restriction on the time period during which the travel has to be undertaken, you are forced to plan your holiday during this period. Airlines offer more flexibility for this period and it usually lasts for two to three months. So, it will require some amount of advance planning on your part. This is crucial for individuals as they have to ensure that the time period restrictions do not make them ineligible for the benefits of a lower fare. Cancellation
Another factor to keep in mind is whether cancellation is allowed on these low fare tickets. In some cases the airline may not allow cancellation at all and you may end up losing the entire booking amount. In other cases, it may allow you to cancel the ticket, but the refund may be only on the tax component, for instance. And you may end up losing a considerable amount if you cancel.
The author is a certified financial planner