Last minute flights used to be the go-to for travellers looking for cheap flights. But in our era of budget airlines, are last minute flight deals dead?
Not if you know how, when, and where to look. Follow our guide to finding the best last minute flights and you could find yourself enjoying a great budget holiday sooner than you think.
1. Forget the old methods of finding last minute flights
Back in the day, the best way to get last minute flights was to arrive at the airport and ask for a standby ticket. Now so many people are travelling by air, the majority of flights sell out: and the only way you’re going to get on that elusive standby list is:
a. If you miss your own flight,
b. If you hold a full price ticket and want to get on an earlier flight, or
c. If you have friends working at the airline. Even then you should be prepared to wait.
2. Become an air courier
Ten years ago, becoming an air courier was also a popular option for budget travellers: but 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. Now 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.
3. 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. This works particularly well for chartered flights, as they often have spare seats to fill, and the newsletter will keep you informed about last minute flight sales.
- As well as using Skyscanner to find last minute flights, use websites specifically designed for last minute travel. is a great example. Not only do they source last minute flights, they also give an in-depth description of the offer.
- Signing up for price alerts is another good way to find last minute flights, depending on where you’re flying from. Luckily have arrived for just this purpose. The basic concept is that you mark a flight that you are interested in and we will email you every day telling you whether the price has dropped, risen, or stayed the same.
- Follow your favourite airlines on social media. Your time on Facebook and Twitter will be well spent if you manage to pick up a deeply discounted flight.
- Look for cancellation holidays. Some package holiday companies sell off last minute trips for a huge discount when their customers can no longer travel.
4. Be flexible
Everybody knows that you need to be flexible when you’re looking for cheap flights. But when it comes to last minute flights, there’s more to being flexible than choosing anti-social flight times. It also means being flexible about your destination, and the airport you’re flying from. You could find yourself in a gorgeous city that you’ve never heard about before. Now that’s spontaneous!
The best way to do this is to use Skyscanner’s “everywhere” destination option. This way you can see which places are cheapest to visit on a short timescale.
Searching on the 7th April for a last minute flight from the UK, I found I could go to Copenhagen £35 return if I could fly from London and was flexible with dates.
5. Sometimes it's better to book early
You can save money by booking ahead, too. Some airlines, particularly in America, will reward you for doing your homework and will offer you an airline credit making up the difference if you call them. Otherwise, try to buy refundable tickets and if the price drops you can cancel and repurchase at the cheaper price.
6. Be careful of fees
Do be careful, as some budget airlines will charge a fee for any changes. Flag carrying airlines likeoften release cheap flights months in advance, with cheap international flights becoming available five and a half months before departure. If you’ve always dreamed of flying to, Thailand, or, then don’t wait until the last minute to book the trip of a lifetime.