Long-haul ticket buying tips

As with everything, there’s an art to buying long-haul air tickets. Buy too cheaply and you may face a long or unnecessary stopover. Choose the wrong airline and you could spend hours sitting in uncomfortable seats with restricted legroom. But a little time spent comparing the options will pay off. Here’s what to look for:

Compare prices
Ask a specialist agent for the cheapest economy fare to your destination and compare it with the national carrier for each route and main UK airlines such as British Airways and Virgin.

Compare flight times
The cheapest fares usually involve a detour or change of plane. While you don’t want to increase your journey time unnecessarily, a chance to stretch your legs might not be a bad thing if it means you’re also saving some money. But by paying a bit more, it could be a 45-minute stop rather than a 12-hour wait.

Compare ticket types
If you are travelling to New Zealand or Australia, you may find that a round-the-world, or RTW ticket is cheaper than a simple return.

Compare the small print
Ticket restrictions vary considerably and it’s worth checking the terms and conditions before you buy. Often you are unable to change outbound flights: when you can, it could be free or cost anything between £50 and £100. You may also have to stay over at least one Saturday night with a maximum stay of between one month and a year.

Compare airlines
You need to decide how much comfort you are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of a lower fare. Seat pitch (the best indication of legroom), for example, can vary from 31in to 34in, depending on aircraft. For airline comparisons see http://www.seatguru.com/ and http://www.airlinequality.com/

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*Premium £38.31 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on a family (two adults aged 35 and two children aged 10 and 12) taking out a standard family Single Trip 24/7 travel insurance policy for 7 days cover in Dubai (Worldwide excluding USA) excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (January 2010) and are subject to change.