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Long-haul flights from Austria: How to get the best prices this winter

High inflation, rising fuel and energy prices and the traditional Christmas prices have made it more expensive for many to fly home from Austria. But here are a few tips on how to get better prices.

Long-haul flights from Austria: How to get the best prices this winter
How to get cheaper flights home from Austria? (Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Many people live in Austria and have families (or at least some relatives) in other countries.

Most international residents are just a bus or train ride away from home, as most immigrants in Austria are from Germany, followed by Serbia and Turkey. 

However, heading “home” for the holidays can be more difficult for many with ties a little further away. If you need to take a longer flight to the UK, or to North or South America or a long haul to India or Australia, you already expect high prices. 

With inflation and rising energy costs, things have got even more expensive in general and flying is no exception. “I have to say this year was a very bad one. Everything was very expensive and inconvenient”, said Diana Platarrueda, who usually travels from Vienna to Colombia during the holidays.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Here are some tips to save money when flying home for the holidays.

Best price comparison websites

When it comes to finding the cheapest flights, many people swear by comparison websites, which check fares from different companies. 

“To find the cheapest flights, I use the search engines, mostly Skyscanner, but also Momondo and Booking. And then when I have a short list, I also check on the airline website”, Platarrueda said.

There are many others, including Google Flights, Kiwi, Hopper and e-dreams. One of the main advantages of these search engines is the ability to look for the cheapest flights within a time frame, which is what Lizi, from Brazil, uses the most: “Kiwi has a feature where you can add a time frame (a month, or a long weekend) as the dates instead of fixed dates, so if you have some flexibility on the dates, it’s a good option”.

She said: “I also take the information from these websites and go directly to the airlines’ websites. Sometimes there’s a small price difference or more options in the same price range.”

READ ALSO: Five European cities you can reach from Austria in less than five hours by train

Booking directly with the airline (or a reputable travel website) is also safer. Additionally, if you need to cancel your flights or ask for a refund, it’s usually easier to do so directly with the airline, as many of these comparison sites have little or no customer support.

Searching for flights online takes time and patience, but it’s well worth it. (Photo: Getty Images)

Online tips

When booking online, there are other things to remember. 

For example, airline and price comparison sites can install cookies on your browser. The myth goes that by tracking your previously searched for flights or even your location, they will then increase prices on your subsequent searches. It hasn’t been proven, but frequent flyers recommend tricks to avoid this alleged markup.

Lizi said: “After researching a certain flight more than once, I also clean the browser cookies cache and use incognito mode as if airlines trackers register the same user looking for the same flight more than once, the price goes up. That’s a tip lots of people are aware of but forget to use.”

Another popular tip is to book on Tuesdays due to the (also not proven, but won’t hurt to try) belief that airlines usually start promotions on Monday evenings. 

READ ALSO: New routes and prices: How train services in Austria will change from December

Check other hubs

Vienna is almost in the middle of Europe and has excellent connections to most of the world. However, Vienna International Airport is not considered one of the largest airports in the continent and looking for flights to your final destination from other European capitals could be better. 

In some cases, it may even be necessary: there are no direct flights from Vienna to any city in Brazil, for example.

With that in mind, many people look for trains, buses or even low-cost flights to other major hubs and then hop on a long-haul flight.

“Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly or take the train to a more frequented hub (Frankfurt, London Healthrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Munich), or one where there are likely more connections (the Madrid to Latin America example is a good one)”, said André. 

READ ALSO: READER QUESTION: How long can I stay out of Austria and keep my residency rights?

He added: “One other possibility that worked for us a few times before (don’t know about now) is to do a one or two-day stop-over at a bigger hub, do some touristy stuff, then take the onward flight.”

Ajin Vincent also does something similar when travelling home: “For South Asia connections, you can book WizzAir to Abudhabi, which normally costs around €70 and then book a flight from Abudhabi or Dubai. It’s really cheap except for the fact that we need to check out and check in again with the luggage.”

For Latin America, Madrid and Lisbon are great hubs. For the US, Amsterdam and Paris also have good flights often. Those flying to Australia might also benefit from stopping first in Singapore. Additionally, it’s always worth it to check out Frankfurt, which is just a train ride from Vienna and is one of Europe’s busiest airports.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What the EU’s new EES system means for travel to Austria

Flying to your country’s capital and then getting a local airline ticket to your home town is also a good option, according to frequent flyers: ” I book the intercontinental flight always to the capital, and then buy the flight to my city locally with the airlines there”, Platarrueda said.

Donna York, from the US, said: “There are direct flights to Washington DC on Austrian Airlines and most of the time, it’s better to book directly.”.

Planning is essential

This tip may be better for the 2023 holiday season, but checking for flights early in the year is essential. Since they fluctuate so much – and tend to get higher as the dates get closer – many people start checking for flights as early as May or June.

“I travel every December to Lima, Peru. I buy my ticket always in May/June departing from Madrid because from Vienna is too expensive”, said Betty Gonzalez. She also highlighted that she looks for cheaper flights early in the year and also uses miles to pay for her ticket.

She said: “I get miles by travelling, through my Amex credit card and sometimes buying them with discount.”

READ ALSO: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Daniela Coccorullo, who is from Argentina, is also a fan of using miles to travel: “There is a miles program that we started using, and flights are usually cheaper buying miles than paying with cash”.

In some cases, families opt for a ‘out of season’ celebration. Photo: Getty Images

Play around with the dates

This is a classic, but if you can be flexible with dates, your chances of getting a more affordable ticket increase exponentially. ” I found that between December 16th and January 12th(or so), prices skyrocket, so if possible, travel outside those dates and be as flexible as possible with the days of the week”, Diana said.

Even one day could make a significant difference. One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I’ve pulled my kids out of school a day before the break and saved hundreds on airfare.”

However, she warned: “The school was horrible about it, which was disappointing as all the school does on the last day is watch movies. Also disappointing as the school intentionally recruited international families.”

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: The Vienna districts where most foreigners live

Sometimes, being flexible about dates means celebrating a “late” or “early” Christmas with you family and changing other celebrations to fit into your budget. 

Many immigrants spend some traditional dates in Austria and fly to their hometown during the low season or just a few days away from Christmas and New Year.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Austrian railway workers set to strike after pay talks fall flat

Austria's railways are set to grind to a halt on Monday due to failed negotiations between unions and rail operators, the country's railway system (ÖBB) said on Sunday.

Austrian railway workers set to strike after pay talks fall flat

Austrian railway workers will hold a one-day strike on Monday after another round of negotiations between unions and railway representatives failed.

The fifth round of negotiations over pay rises for 50,000 employees from 65 different railway operators, including the main national operator ÖBB, had failed to come to a resolution.

Vida, the trade union that represents the workers, has asked for a wage increase of €400 – an average increase of around 12 percent.

In response, Austria’s Chamber of Commerce offered an increase of a 8 percent.

With walkouts set to go ahead, there will be no regional, long-distance or night trains on Monday.

“After more than twelve hours of intensive talks, the [two sides] unfortunately did not manage to come to an agreement,” the ÖBB said in a statement.

Cross-border traffic and night travel could be affected, and the ÖBB also warned of “individual train cancellations” on Sunday evening and even on Tuesday.

Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB, said in a statement: “I cannot understand this strike at all. With an offer of 8.44 percent, the ÖBB has made the highest offer of any sector.”

“This is clearly a malicious strike on the part of the union,” he added.

Vida union negotiator Gerhard Tauchner said that they “are fighting for a sustainable cost of living adjustment… which will give relief to those with lower and middle incomes in particular in the face of skyrocketing prices.”

Austria’s year-on-year inflation rate hit 11 percent in October. 

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