How to use filters to find the right flight

airline code abbreviations on Ahoy

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.”


So, you get a work assignment, and it includes travel. Yay! So you start mentally planning the trip, and imagining all that you’re going to achieve. You’re super excited and can’t wait to book that flight.

Then, you hit flight search mode, aka where travel dreams go to be tortured and die.

Getting richer results

Besides on the simplest routes, where you fly all the time, the results you get can be confusing and overwhelming. On most long-hauls, return flights, or multi-city searches, this can include 1000’s of possible combinations. Without using the proper filters and mindset, you are wasting time, and even missing out on some of the best results.

Surprisingly, when you narrow your search criteria, you will get richer results for your criteria, then you could on a broader search. If it’s sometimes difficult to find the right flight for you, read on.

If you are used to searching on Skyscanner or Google Flights – so-called metasearch engines –  you are used to getting tons of results and combinations, maybe too many, but you cant actually make a booking on them. 

On the other hand, individual booking sites don’t have the same speed, or all the results you’d like to see. This is because a metasearch scans data from 100’s of providers (Online Travel Agents like Kiwi or AHOY), whereas a booking site is just one of these OTAs.

So, start your search with Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights. They are great for overview and can show you 1000s of combinations, but you aren’t actually able to book with them directly. They are simply aggregators. To actually book a flight you will need to click through to a booking site or an airline. 

If you have preferred booking sites, then when you know which flight you want, you can use filters in the booking site to pull them out. For example, you found that the right flight for you, is with some specific airlines or via a specific connecting city. You simply narrow your search using filters, to get only fights that match your criteria. The booking site will use this filtered search to access richer options than a broad search would return. This generally provides you with a lot more flight options that you didn’t see in your initial search.

Getting cheaper results

If you are flying through multiple cities, it can be hard to figure out whether you’re getting the best deal on all that flying. In general:

1. Return trips across continents are cheaper than one-way flights. So however you want to plan the trip, make sure it ends up somewhere close to where you came from.

2. Routes with lots of airline competition are cheaper than routes with just one main carrier or alliance. For this reason, connecting flights are always lower cost. There are nearly endless amounts of options for a traveller if they can accept a connecting flight. While direct flights are limited to one or two carriers.

3. Likewise airports with a very strong single airline hub will have special advantages for the “home” carrier which can limit competition and increase prices. So if you can broaden your search to other nearby airports, you will find cheaper options.

4. If you need to visit multiple cities on your trip, open jaw flights with a separate one-way or multi-city flight booking can help you take advantage of low cost carriers within a region. Choose a port of entry and exit with lots of international carrier competition, and then use domestic or local budget airlines for the shorter flights within the region. Rather than booking all the legs together.

Booking with airlines that don’t play together

If after all that, the flight you need still isn’t showing up!… it could be that a certain combination of airlines is not able to be sold together. Some airlines play well with others, some don’t. While a metasearch can show lots of combinations, some booking sites will only show you combinations that you can actually buy together. So combos of airlines that do play well together.

Some sites may show you combinations that don’t “actually play together, in which case you may have to buy each leg separately. 

Airlines that dont play together

At AHOY, we allow travellers put their seats on hold, for up to 90 mins. So, if you do need 2 one-ways with an intercontinental return flight tying it all together, your seats stay on hold while paying each flight leg. That way you don’t risk the subsequent flights being sold out or the price increasing while you’re paying for the first one.

If all else fails, it helps to ask a human with access to travel agent systems. The systems travel agents use can sometimes find and combine fares in different ways than is possible elsewhere. 

Good luck out there.