Single tickets or multi-stop flights?!
| TRAVEL ADVICE | BUYING FLIGHTS |
I learnt a lot of interesting travel facts and tips during my time working at STA Travel. Working behind the scenes and liaising with airlines and companies on a daily basis provided an invaluable insight to the world of travel! Being able to distinguish between single or multi-stop flights and their benefits definitely comes in useful. If done correctly, multi-stop flights can save you a lot of money!
Before working at STA, I had no idea how flights/ airlines worked and had a whooole lot to learn when I started. Naively, I waltzed into my first day thinking, ‘booking flights, how hard can it be?!’.. Oh how wrong I was! Without bogging you down in the million and one rules surrounding airlines and their flights, I’m going to provide some tips to help you choose whether single tickets or multi-stop flights are going to be best for YOUR itinerary.
Single tickets… Multi-stop… What’s the difference?!
To be honest, they both do what they say on the tin – a single ticket is a one way ticket from one destination to another, whereas multi-stop flights are a collection of flights to multiple destinations, but all under one ‘ticket’.
So, for a travel itinerary that includes Thailand, Singapore, and Australia, you could either opt for single tickets UK -> Thailand -> Singapore -> Aus -> UK (so 4 tickets)…or… a multi-stop itinerary that has all of those flights under one ticket (effectively a return ticket to Aus with stopovers in Thailand and Singapore).
Another option would be to opt for the following multi-stop flights: UK -> Thailand and then Singapore -> Aus -> UK which would leave the Thailand to Singapore bit open to book a single ticket at a later date. E.g. If you weren’t sure how long you’d want to be in Thailand and Singapore. Sometimes it works out much cheaper to do smaller or internal flights with budget airline companies instead, e.g. Air Asia for this example.
So which option is cheapest??
The majority of the time, multi-stop flights are cheapest. You’re probably thinking, well DUH! Most people are aware that a return ticket is cheaper than buying two singles, and the same principle applies to multi-stop flights. The more stops you can squeeze in to a ticket, the cheaper it should work out (compared to buying the same itinerary as single flights).
HOWEVER, this only works in your favour when you are combing routes/ airlines that cover the destinations you want to travel to and you are travelling in a logical fashion. If your itinerary was to go from the UK -> USA -> Ibiza-> Australia -> Canada -> Uruguay -> UK, you would run in to all kinds of problems. It would also cost you a small fortune!!
Going backwards and forwards is not logical and is extremely counterproductive. The itinerary above also includes smaller airports that wouldn’t necessarily even have planes that fly to the places you want to get to. If they do, it’s going to be pretty long winded. For example, to get from Ibiza to Australia you are most likely going to be flying to London or another major airport first, before flying to Australia. You’re then guaranteed a stop on the way to Australia, so as well as being more expensive, you also end up with a much longer journey time.
Choosing the right destinations can make a massive difference. The way that a lot of STA Travel’s multi-stop flights work (and why they are so cheap), is that they use destinations that are all covered by one airline, or a couple of airlines that code share. For example, a very popular route is to travel UK -> Bangkok -> Australia -> New Zealand -> UK. I’ve sold this exact journey (all flights) for as little as £700 before!! Which is pretty good when you think that a straight return to Aus or NZ is going to cost you upwards of that on its own…..
So why is it so cheap!? All the destinations visited in that itinerary above are covered by Emirates. This means, you are effectively paying Emirates for a return ticket to NZ; you are just getting off a couple of times on the way. Because it’s in a logical order, and because Emirates don’t charge for stopovers (only a small tax to leave the airport included in the ticket price)- this route can work out to be a very good deal! You could also whack Dubai in there if you wanted, which would also be free because Dubai is the hub for Emirates, so all flights have to stop there. If you didn’t want to stay in Dubai, you’d still have to have a transit and change planes.
When are single flights better??
Believe it or not, there are actually times when single flights work out a better or cheaper option for your itinerary. This is due to a number of reasons:
– If you are going to weird and wonderful destinations! If you are planning on visiting remote places, for example Mongolia, a limited number of airlines will fly there. As I mentioned earlier, if you have some funky destinations, chances are multi-stop is going to cost you more – or may not even be possible.
– If your flights are too spaced out. Flights are only released 11 months in advance, so when you are going away for an extended period of time, buying multi-stop flights may not be a viable option!
– Your plans are super flexible. E.g. If you have the general plan of ‘let’s see how long we can live and work on the road‘, sometimes things may not work out that way. You may never find work, you may spend all your money and be home after a year… OR if everything goes to plan and you find work, you could be looking at being away for years. Therefore, it would be silly to tie yourself down with a bunch of onward flights that you may never use.
TOP 3 TIPS for multi-stop itineraries
- Choose a logical route – try not to go back on yourself!
- Opt for major airports – E.g. Choosing Bangkok airport over Cambodia/ Vietnam/ Laos can save you LOADS if flying into South East Asia. Bangkok is a massive hub and a bunch of airlines fly there, making prices more competitive. One customer of mine wanted to fly in to Cambodia but I suggested flying into Bangkok then getting the bus/train to Cambodia. Public transport is dirt cheap (under $10), easy to work out and you can arrive in Cambodia on the same day, even on an afternoon departure from Bangkok.
- Book with a person, not a computer! – When working out a large itinerary, it’s MUCH easier to head into a store and deal with a person, rather than trying to juggle everything on your computer. You’ll also find that most multi-stop booking systems online are a bit crap and won’t easily let you do what you want. In branch, travel agents have fancy airline coding software that allows them to easily and quickly work out the best route/ dates/ times for you. They can also offer their experiences – perhaps changing up your itinerary slightly would save you a few pennies…. they will know! Another benefit of booking with a person is that you have a personal contact for your flights. If anything happens, you will have an agent who can sort it for you.. Trust me, calling airlines is NOT fun! They can also let you know whether your flight has had a schedule change – airlines will change their flight times a lot, and you’ll want to be informed.