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Tips and hints for obtaining discounted airfares to Africa

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Your airfares are likely to make up a large portion of the total cost of your safari but ironically they're usually easier to organize!  Consider it time well spent finding the cheapest airfares for your trip to Africa -  a few days' worth of planning could result in a significantly cheaper total safari package..... 

Purchase your international and regional airfares from one source 

  • You may gain some safari-planning flexibility by setting overall start and end dates and immediately purchasing your international tickets.  
  • If you then start arranging regional tickets separately they're likely to be "full-fare" and the result will be a more expensive total air package - even if you go back to your original supplier.  
  • Sensibly, you have more buying power and scope for discount airfares from a single airfare consolidator or travel agent.  The more complete the itinerary is for the agent, the more incentive they have to get your business at the best all round deal too.....

It's almost always cheaper to use only one airline or code-sharing airlines for a trip instead of two or more  

  • Often this isn't physically possible on some multi-stop routes where airlines aren't consolidating resources and pax, so   
  • leg-work done by a specialist who has access to the larger network of airlines and suppliers and also understands the relationships between different airlines is more likely to save you both time and money in arranging the lowest airfares.

Plan your full itinerary - international and regional legs

Constructing an itinerary for multi-continent destinations can be complex and frustrating.  If you're doing a round-trip (say, North America - Europe - Africa - Europe - North America) or straight multi-stop trip (Pacific - Africa - North America) understand that different international segments are priced for different markets.  So concentrate on finding airlines that are code-sharing to find the best international airfares.

Similarly, the best regional and domestic airfares in Africa are obtained by local airlines and charter companies that collaborate on specific routes.  These relationships sometimes change annually, or even seasonally.  In some cases it makes sense to look at local travel alternatives or to look at a combination safari that incorporates different destinations rather than flying independently between regional or domestic hubs.

Get your timing right

  • Make your reservation early. Airlines sell only a limited number of seats at the lowest fares. When those seats sell out, the price goes up. 
  • Very importantly, avoid making changes once your tickets are purchased. 
  • To get the lowest round-trip fare, that fare must be available on both the departing and return flights you select. If the fare is sold out on either of these, the price you end up with will be much higher. So if you can't find the fare you want; try an earlier or later flight or consider flying on another day.

Go to the Trip Planner or consult the regional African maps....


Discounted airfare restrictions

Firstly, these are the main "types" of air tickets: 

  • Consolidator air tickets: The cheapest. These are "excess seats" or "promotional fares" sold under direct contract with the airlines outside of IATA published fares. In return for a cheap airfare you agree to travel on specific dates and times and have to accept the full set of restrictions including expensive cancellation and change penalties. 
  • APEX air tickets: You purchase these airfares well in advance at IATA published rates which are discounted from the full unrestricted fare price. Cancellation and change penalties still apply but are less onerous than consolidator fares. 
  • Full unrestricted tickets (Y class): The most expensive, sold at full published IATA rates. These tickets are refundable, re-routable and endorsable. 

Discounted tickets offer cost benefits in return for limitations on travel flexibility and service - they always have restrictions established by the airline at time of purchase.  These restrictions can be difficult and frustrating to interpret. If you're doing it yourself and looking for the cheapest airfare you need to understand some basic discounted fare restrictions:

  • Penalties for cancellation or change are generally expensive
  • Discounted tickets may not allow for re-routing
  • Tickets may not be endorsable - you can't exchange them with another airline 
  • Tickets may not be refundable even if you don't use the return portion of the ticket.
  • Many discounted air fares require that you make a reservation 7, 14 or 21 days before your flight date depending on the fare. The best international air fares usually require a reservation at least 30 days in advance. 
  • Flying on a weekday usually costs less. Flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday usually offer the lowest fares. Saturday flights occasionally have discount fares, but as a rule it's more expensive to fly on a weekend than a weekday. Most low fares require that you stay over at least one Saturday night before your return flight. So whilst some fares may only require you to stay a minimum of 3 or 4 days and Saturdays may be cheaper it generally works out planning mid-week departures and returns. 
  • Pre-assignment of seats: The airline always has the right to reassign seats, and a pre-assigned seat is a service, but not a right. 
  • Frequent flier miles - some airlines do not award frequent flier miles for consolidator tickets.
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