One of the main preparations that need to be arranged before going to another country is air travel. It’s important to find an airline that would cater to your needs and also fit within your travel budget.
Traveling to Europe from the Philippines isn’t exactly cheap and could require a little more preparation and research than your average out of the country trip. Luckily, there are loads of flight alternatives that could get you to Europe without having to cost an arm and a leg.
Finding a Cheap Flight
The internet is every budget travel planner’s best friend. A few searches at Skyscanner, Farecompare, and Cheapflights and you’ll get a good idea about airline price ranges and flight routes. However, it was a combination of online and offline efforts that allowed us to book flights that met our schedule and budget requirements.
Upon searching online, we found that the cheapest flights for our itinerary (Manila to Barcelona, Amsterdam to Manila) was through multiple airlines, some with two or three layovers and some with a total travel time of more than 40 hours. That’s almost two days of vacation time spent just riding planes and waiting in airports – and that’s just one way! It may sound like an adventure for some, but we would rather shell out a little more money than suffer fatigue and endure stress before and after our vacation.
The most reasonable flight we found within our schedule and budget was Qatar Airways’ promo fare flights. The trip only required one layover in Doha and according to reviews online, Hamad International Airport is one of the most comfortable airports in the world. In fact, it was awarded as the 5th best airport by Skytrax in 2018 (since flight prices vary from season to season, I will not mention the actual cost of our flights to avoid false expectations from people researching about traveling to Europe from the Philippines; it’s easy to search for updated fares through the links above).
We took note of the flight schedules and prices but didn’t book online just yet. Instead, we went to a travel expo in SMX Mall of Asia where Qatar Airways was participating in.
Upon talking to a Qatar Airways attendant, we explained our travel itinerary and the details of the flights we were planning to book. We also told her that we were willing to adjust our itinerary if it could get us cheaper flights.
A few clicks on the system computer and she was able to present a few options with varying prices, schedules, and arrangements. In the end, we decided on a flight that departs from Clark* instead of Manila, and an arrival flight that’s a bit later than our original plan. These few adjustments allowed us to save more than P20,000 ($400) compared to our original flight itinerary.
*Qatar Airways offers free daily shuttle transfers from Trinoma to Clark.
Tips for Finding the Best Flight for Your Trip
- Use an incognito window. When searching for flights online, be sure to use an incognito window. You may notice that if you search for a certain flight over and over again, it tends to get more expensive every time you visit the airline website. It’s because your cache records your activities and displays pricier rates to convince you to book right then and there.
- Choose a weekday flight. Flights on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays can get a lot more expensive than those on weekdays and you can see this for yourself by making mock bookings on airline websites. According to online sources, the cheapest day to fly is Tuesday. If you want to save extra, book flights that depart late at night or very early in the morning.
- Book flights at a travel expo… or at least, talk to an airline agent. Many would say that it’s futile to brave the crowd in travel expos since agencies offer the same deals online anyway. But sometimes, personally talking to an actual agent who can navigate through the airline’s booking system can offer more options and save you a lot of money.
- Got friends or relatives in Europe? Don’t use their fare estimate as a gauge. Europe residents can book flights to and from the Philippines way ahead of their trip, which could mean cheaper rates. Most Filipinos however, would only book their flight to Europe after having been granted a Schengen Visa (Applying for a Schengen Visa in the Philippines). And you could only apply for Schengen Visa three months before your planned date of departure (e.g. if you’re planning to go to Europe in April, the earliest you could apply for Schengen Visa is in January). With time allowance for visa processing, the longest lead time you could get between booking your flight and your actual departure flight is 2.5 months. A Dutch resident I know told me that our discounted Qatar Airways flights cost just as much as their Cathay Pacific regular flights – but they booked it 8 months in advance.
- Consider factors other than the price of the flight. For budget travelers, booking the cheapest possible flight may seem common sense. There are airline companies offering cheap flights from Manila to Europe, usually via Istanbul, Paris or Amsterdam for as low as P30,000++. But Google those airlines and a ton of bad reviews are sure to come flying in. Who needs a cheap flight if you end up sleeping off the first two days in your destination because you weren’t able to get even just a few minutes of shuteye in the plane? Also, having a 14-hour layover in a not-so-comfortable airport in the middle of nowhere can cost you money as you might need to stay in an airport hotel, visit the airport spa (to pacify your stress), or eat meals at the very least.
How do you hunt for airline deals and what are your requirements for a good flight? Tell us on the comment section below!