Skyscanner is a popular website and app for finding cheap flights. But is it the best tool? We outline exclusive reasons why you should to make use of Skyscanner and reduce the risk of booking your flights with a third-rate booking partner.
How to use Skyscanner to find cheap flights
Skyscanner searches flights on almost every airline websites, as well as trusted online travel agencies…and those less trusted. We walk through the process to maximize the power of Skyscanner and find cheap flights, step by step.
Skyscanner booking options
Choosing your departure and arrival city
- You’ll be prompted to enter where you’re leaving from and where you’re going, along with your preferred dates.
- Are you flying to Europe or America? Many cities have multiple airports, so be general and just enter the city.
- London, for example, as Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), City (LCY), Stansted (STN), Luton (LTN) and Southend (SEN). If you insert ‘LHR’, Skyscanner won’t consider prices to other local airports, which may offer cheaper airfares.
Selecting travel dates
- Skyscanner lets you pick the dates you want to fly, and suggests day(s) where flights are cheaper. You can also search (Economy class) seats by month to reveal the prices available each day.
- If you’re booking a return flight, the cheapest days to travel will be displayed in the same way. Once confirmed, the total price will show up with the airlines and booking options.
Skyscanner lets you see the cheapest day to fly in a selected given month
Specifying one-way or return, passenger numbers and travel class
You can edit your preferences further using the drop-down options above the dates; the default settings are ‘return journey, one passenger flying in economy.
Hand baggage only? You’ll probably pay less than the initial price displayed if flying Air Australia
- We found on multiple occasions that fares displayed for Air Australian flights on Skyscanner were different to the airline’s website when you click through. We believe this is due to luggage add-ons – Skyscanner fares exclude baggage for certain airlines which affects the pricing.
- What does this mean? If you are looking for domestic Australia flights, or New Zealand, Pacific Island and regional leisure (Bali, Hawaii etc.) flights, the prices probably won’t be accurate until you add luggage on Air Australia’s website. A similar issue occurs with Jetstar.
Skyscanner shows $160, whereas Air Australia shows $154 (no bag) or $174 (1 bag)
Sorting the results
- Skyscanner orders flights by ‘Best’, ‘Cheapest’ and ‘Fastest’. ‘Best’ balances the total journey time with prices to provide convenience. You can sort slide ‘Departure Times’ to find flights that suit your schedule.
- Important: The price displayed by Skyscanner will (usually) be in Australian Dollars, and will always include taxes, surcharges and booking fees. Check that the currency is AUD by scrolling at the top of the page. This will avoid nasty surprises of booking thinking it’s AUD but being charged NZD, or, and even worse, USD.
Setting the currency to AUD using Skyscanner
Booking on Skyscanner
- The next step is to confirm your outbound and return dates, which will prompt you to select an online travel agency (OTA) or an airline. In the example below, the OTAs listed are
- You can also book directly with Air Australia; you’ll notice in this example the significant price difference. Each search will give different results; booking the cheapest flight is always the best idea if you’re comfortable with the company you book with. If in doubt, it’s best to book directly with the airline as long as the price is reasonable.
Track prices by setting up Skyscanner ‘alerts’
- If you know your dates but are not ready to buy, you can set a price alert for the flights you want.
- This is done by toggling on the Price Alert. You’ll need to register with Skyscanner to activate the alert.
- What happens is good and bad – you’ll get an email every time the price changes, but this may also flood your inbox as changes can occur multiple times per day (for some flights).
- Skyscanner, annoyingly, doesn’t let you set parameters around the alert, i.e. “email me when the price gets below $…”. You’re unable to set alerts for a date range either.
5 Reasons to use Skyscanner Cheap flights:
- It’s really fast – Skyscanner is powerful and speedy, with ‘one-click search’ serving up hundreds or thousands of flight options in seconds.
- The calendar feature – Skyscanner’s calendar lets you see fares on any date, up to 12 months in advance.
- Map-based search – It’s straightforward to see the cheapest places to fly by selecting your departure airport and dragging the map to where you want to go, adjusting the month of travel and budget accordingly.
- Transparent pricing – what you see on the results is what you’ll pay. Skyscanner reveals more often than not that the cheapest tickets are found from booking directly with the airline.
- Car rental and hotels – while you can’t book either as a package with your flight, what we saw when pricing several hotels throughout 2020 was very positive. In many cases, the prices offered by Skyscanner’s partner were around 20% cheaper than industry giants like Booking.com and Hotels.com. This wasn’t the case for hotels in Australia where the difference was minimal, but overseas in Australia favourites like Dubai, Rome and Los Angeles, the difference could be significant.
Skyscanner could improve in some areas:
- Flight prices may jump up between a quote and booking – Skyscanner is getting better at this, but very occasionally the quote you’ll see will be replaced with a higher price when you go to book.
- It doesn’t display major travel agencies for booking – you won’t find live prices from Flight Centre, and House of Travel isn’t featured. Instead, you’ll find airlines, online travel agencies or sites like Expedia and GoToGate.
- The prices are not always the best deal – travel agents like Flight Centre regularly offer flight deals that not even the airlines themselves can beat. For example, Flight Centre’s recent ‘take a mate’ deal cost $698 return for two people to go Auckland to Sydney. The best price on Skyscanner was $955, some 43% more expensive.
- Questionable booking partners – Skyscanner gives you plenty of options to choose from,and rates third party sites from one to five stars to indicate the reputation of the company. The star rating is generated by customer reviews. The more the reviews and the higher the star rating, the better the reputation. For example, companies like ‘eDreams’, ‘Mytrip’ and ‘Tripair’ all have three-star ratings, whereas Mix & Match (House of Travel-owned) has 4.5 stars, and Air New Zealand has 5 stars.
Frequently asked questions about Skycanner
Skycanner is easy to use, but it’s not for everyone. The FAQs below explain the limitations and what to watch out for.
How does Skycanner get its prices?
Skycanner is connected to airline and online travel agent airfare inventory which lets it show prices near-instantly to anyone using the tool. The prices are continuously updated, but the final price may, in some instances, be different from the first price quoted. The Skycanner app works in the same way.
You can either book directly with Skyscanner (via ‘Book’) or with the airline or travel agent (via ‘Select’). If you click on ‘Select’, you’ll be taken to a third party. Skyscanner charges a small commission to the company you booked with for ‘referring’ you if you buy a ticket.
Skyscanner has no control over flight prices, nor does it offer packages or special offers. It simply shows the best available prices at any time. These prices change as specials are released by the airline and cheaper seats get booked.
‘Select’ and ‘Book’ are the two options for buying your flight, with ‘Book’ processed on the Skyscanner website
Are all airlines flying from Australia available on Skyscanner?
Yes – all international airlines operating to and from Australia are covered by Skyscanner. Regional airlines aren’t covered (i.e. Sounds Air, Fly My Sky etc) so you’ll need to book those directly with the airline.
Does Skyscanner show me flexible airfares?
Only the lowest available prices are displayed, which are usually ‘saver’ or ‘special’ fares. If you search for flights immediately before you travel, this may not be the case.
If you want flexible airfares (which are popular with those who change flights and want to avoid high fees), it’s generally best to book directly with an airline. Flexible airfares vary between airlines, and Skyscanner doesn’t let you compare.
What are the refund and changes policies if I use Skyscanner?
Skyscanner doesn’t have refund or flight changes policies – what you need to look at is the policy of who you book with. If you book with an airline, the refund and change fees will be displayed on their website. An online travel agent will, typically, bury it in their terms and conditions.
Is it better to book with an airline, local travel agent or online travel agent?
- It depends on your needs and likelihood of changing or cancelling the flight:
- Booking with an airline gives you full control and means you can deal with their call centre directly.
- Booking with a local travel agent, i.e. Flight Centre, means you’ll most likely be told about the change and cancellation fees before you pay.
- Booking with an online travel agent can be complicated – you may have to call an overseas number, and there may be change fees on top of the airline’s fees. Some OTAs don’t offer refunds even if the airline’s ticket allows refunds.
- For example, Air Australia’s Long haul Global Saver fare conditions allow cancellations and changes, whereas their Trans-Tasman Economy Smart Saver conditions only allow changes. If you booked these flights with an OTA, it’s likely they would charge you fees on top of those charged by Air Australia.
- Generally, for a standard return trip with a very low risk of changes being made, any of the above options would be suitable. But if you’re going away and want flexibility, booking with an airline (and not an OTA) is a popular way to go.
Five sites like Skyscanner where you’ll find cheap flights
Looking to cross-check that you’ve got the best price? These five sites are quick to use and have an excellent reputation among Australians.
- Kiwi.com displays fares on its user-friendly calendar. It’s a one-stop solution, meaning all prices are final and you’ll book directly with Kiwi.com. The useful pricing map shows you what destinations are cheap per month.
- Kiwi’s guarantee covers for delays and cancellations and is included with every booking. This gives you either a full refund or re-booking if the airline won’t assist.
- Arguably Australia’s favourite travel agent, Flight Centre routinely offers exclusive deals that its competitors are unlikely to beat. Skyscanner does offer car rental and accommodation booking, so it’s good to check.
- Flight Centre’s website offers the same deals as their stores, and it’s Flight Centre policy to offer the lowest price (meaning it will price match).
- Expedia is the world’s biggest travel website and is particularly good for Australia rental car deals.
- Expedia offers flights, hotels and cars, and you have the option to book them all together.
- Webjet is a one-stop-shop for Australians to book flights, hotels, packages, car hire and cruises.
- Webjet exclusive deals and a user-friendly booking interface are popular features.
- Cheap Flights claims to compare 1,000+ airlines and travel agents to show the best deals.
- While the interface isn’t as friendly as Skyscanner, it’s worth checking your dates to see if you can get a better price. It also offers accommodation and car hire.
Important: Remember, Before booking with any travel agency or online travel agent, check:
- What are the contact centre options? The best offering is 24/7 phone, the worst is ‘email only’. If you need help with your booking, you want a person to talk to, and you want them as quickly as possible.
- What are the cancellation and change fees? The best offering is a small charge, the worst is ‘no refunds, no changes’. Be aware that online travel agents make lots of money from change fees, and you won’t be able to go directly to your airline to make the changes.