Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

Cheap flights? How I get halfway across the world for half the price

If I had one identifying feature, it’s probably that I am an absolute dab hand at getting to far-flung countries on the cheap

I managed to get from Dubai to Western Australia, above, for less than half the price of a direct flight. 
I managed to get from Dubai to Western Australia, above, for less than half the price of a direct flight. 

How much is 32 hours worth to you?

For me, apparently, it equates to about Dh1,800. Notwithstanding several thousand dirhams in mental exertion and wasted time that simply can’t be appraised.

A few months ago, I travelled to Perth, Australia for less than half the cost of a direct flight ticket.

How, you ask? Well, the first thing to do is to put absolutely no value on your spare time.

Forget normal skills or hobbies: if I had one identifying feature, it’s probably that I am an absolute dab hand at getting to far-flung countries on the cheap. And if that’s not something to put on a tombstone, I don’t know what is.

There is, of course, the rather crucial caveat: that a thrifty journey usually takes far longer than a normal, expensive direct flight would, and the facilities on such a journey are usually no frills, at best, and spartan, at worst. Plus it’s not environmentally friendly (see more, right). But … savings! And free trips to exotic stopover locations! I’m telling you, this is new-age travel.

The Gulf's online travel market is projected to more than double in the next five years as demographics and consumer preferences change. Getty
The Gulf's online travel market is projected to more than double in the next five years as demographics and consumer preferences change. Getty

When you're from New Zealand, you have to have some flight booking ingenuity

Let me explain the process. I’m from a small island nation thousands of miles from any other discernible land mass; a country whose beauty may only be eclipsed by how exceptionally difficult (read: expensive) it is to get to. Let’s hear it for New Zealand.

We Kiwis living all over the world are faced with two options when our parents wish to see us in the flesh rather than through a laptop. The first is to pay the excessive fares of the small few, or sometimes sole, airlines that fly all the way to our fair shores. The second is to pay much less, but inadvertently route your journey through a country that will not be remotely on the way. Nor will it leave you with a swift one- or two-hour layover.

A ticket from Dubai to Perth, return, for Dh3,000 per ticket

Naturally, I’m a vocal supporter of the latter. Take, for example, a Christmas 2018 jaunt to Perth, Australia (the closest thing to halfway that 10 family members could agree on). For future reference, non-Antipodeans, Perth is not even close to being halfway.

And there’s only one, very expensive direct flight, which is simply extortionate, over the festive season. And so instead, we pillaged Skyscanner for a better option. This is what we came up with: flight duration on a hodgepodge of airlines: 42 hours. Cost: Dh1,596 per ticket. Flight duration on direct flight: 11 hours. Cost: about Dh3,500.

And so off we went: Dubai to Shanghai with a wonderful 10-hour layover during the day in Shanghai; Shanghai to Guangzhou with an overnight layover in Guangzhou in a free hotel put on by China Southern Airlines (hooray!); before flying on to Perth.

Foolhardy? Absolutely, and that’s before I’ve mentioned the two-hour layover in Kunming that wasn’t mentioned on any of our tickets and meant getting off the plane, only to go through immigration and circle back on to the exact same plane. That trip took 42 hours and cost Dh3,192 for two tickets. On Emirates or Etihad, you would be lucky to get one ticket, at a non-festive time of year for that.

All you direct-flight-only people recoiling in your seats, I bet you can’t think of anything worse. Just wait until you hear about our return flight. Time: 43 hours; cost: Dh1,628 per ticket. We left our hotel in Perth at 4am on January 4. We arrived in Dubai – via Kuala Lumpur (seven-hour layover), Guangzhou and the same aforementioned Kunming debacle – at 7.30pm on January 5. And that’s taking into account going back in time six whole hours. And that, my friends, is how you get from Dubai to Perth and back for Dh6,448 for two people.

Dubai to New Zealand - via Kochi, Singapore, Australia - for Dh1,445 one way

If all this makes your stomach turn, I probably shouldn’t tell you about the time I spent three days and 12 hours making it back from Dubai to my homeland. This involved flying via Kochi, Singapore and the Gold Coast (where I spent two days with a friend, not wandering listlessly through the deserted passages of the airport. I’m not a total amateur), before flying in to Wellington. At the measly cost of Dh1,445 one-way.

Before you start with all your “but how much do you value your time arguments?”, I’m going to ask you to please stop jeering at me from your comfortable, meal-providing direct-route seats.

My elongated flight routes are chosen on the basis that I take no extra time off from work – and it’s generally only cutting back the time I spend with my family by a few hours, which almost always tends to be more of a blessing than a hindrance.

And when it comes to long-haul flights, people held in such close quarters really tend to get pungent at about hour five, so I quite like to escape the flying tin can for fresh air at least once en route.

Admittedly, I’ve pledged this will be the year I fully embrace the direct, and pricier, long-haul flight. I just need to get my trip to London with Wizz Air via a five-hour layover in Bucharest at 2am out of the way first.

Updated: April 4, 2019 01:29 PM

SHARE

SHARE