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Last Minute Flights: A Guide to Finding a Late Deal

In the era of budget airlines, are last minute flights dead? Not if you know how, when, and where to look... Here's some tried and tested tips on how to bag a last minute flight bargain. Search for last minute flights now

There are multiple strategies for finding a deal on last minute flights–though not all of these are likely to succeed. As a general rule, being polite, flexible with your travel dates, and adaptable to different routes can help you save money.

Forget the old methods of finding last minute flights

Back in the day, the best way to get a last minute flight was to arrive at the airport and politely ask for a standby ticket. Now, so many people are travelling by air and booking their tickets in advance, the majority of flights sell out well before check-in time comes around. Airlines have also teamed up to codeshare with their partners, often merging two half-full flights into one in order to cut down costs.

It seems to be that the only way you’re going to get on that elusive standby list is if you miss your own flight, if you hold a full-price ticket and request to take an earlier flight, or if you have close connections with the airline. It’s safe to say that each of these three tactics is less than ideal.

Become an air courier

Ten years ago, becoming an air courier was also a popular option for budget travellers. However, very few airlines offer this service anymore. In the past, it could take up to two weeks for a package to go through customs, unless it was accompanied by a person. Today, many companies like UPS have deals in place with airports and no longer need couriers. There are still a few routes which operate courier tickets, but it’s a very competitive industry.

Unfortunately, being an air courier is no longer a top option for scoring those elusive last-minute flights.

Keep your eyes and ears open

You’re not the only one out there looking for cheap last minute flights. You can get the jump on other spontaneous travellers just by paying attention.

If an airline has a newsletter, sign up for it. Airlines often reward loyal customers and newsletter subscribers with last-minute deals in an effort to recoup costs on empty flights. It’s worth checking their social media accounts, too.

Signing up for price alerts is another good way to find last minute flights, depending on where you’re flying from. Use the Skyscanner ‘Price Alert’ feature to be notified whenever the price of a flight changes.

Be flexible

Of course, Skyscanner can help you find last minute fares with our ‘Everywhere‘ search. Finding flights to destinations all around the world is easy just by simply typing in ‘Everywhere’ as the destination along with the last minute dates you wish to travel. If you have a city in mind, type that in. We’ll compare thousands of flights to find the cheapest and best value fares for you.

Select ‘Everywhere’ in the ‘To’ field.

Who knows, the destination you’ve never heard of before might end up being your favourite place in the world?

Skyscanner will reveal the cheapest destinations from your departure airport.

Want to find the very best flight prices? If you’re flexible on when you fly, use Skyscanner’s ‘Whole Month’ search tool to find the cheapest day to travel to your chosen destination.

In ‘Depart’ and ‘Return,’ select ‘Whole Month’ and the month you wish to travel.

Beware of fees

Even if you’re in a desperate situation to book a flight ticket at the last minute, beware of surprise fees. Cheap tickets often come with excess fares when it comes to checking baggage, seat and meal selection, and flight changes. Always compare the cost of the base fare to the cost of your total trip. If you’re flying to a remote airport in lieu of the one closest to your accommodation, will you be losing money on taxi or train fares? Crunch the numbers to ensure that the last minute flight you’re buying is a deal rather than a dud.


Ready to fly? Skyscanner can help your money go further on flights, hotels and car hire.