The smart student flight plan

Jun 25, 2014, 08:34 IST | Kiran Mehta

You’re headed to a foreign university. But have you made wise choices by flying the right airline, bagging the coolest deals and checking on travel must-dos?

Who better than a student would understand that life really is a game of numbers. Just a fraction of a mark can make the difference, and have you walking through the hall of fame, or shame! And while everyone (and their grandmas), has already advised you on how to score higher to get to or through college — devise your own mnemonics, eat brain-food like badaam, cheat, don’t cheat et al — we’re here to talk a different set of numbers.

student flight plan

Real deals
This is what no guidebook will tell you — how to save a few dollars, before you step on campus. Virgin Atlantic has a place reserved for bookworms, scholars, and nerds! The airline has special student fares, between the sectors of Mumbai and Delhi, flying in to UK/USA, wherein students get a 10 per cent discount on the base fare, in Premium Economy. In addition, if you can’t afford Premium Economy, as a student you can still enjoy a special baggage allowance of 69 kg of checked-in luggage in Economy, a jump from 46 kg, which is the regular Economy allowance. And students flying Premium Economy are allowed 92 kg, an upgrade from the regular 69 kg allowance in this class.

For those students who leave everything to the very last minute — the ones who claim to work better under pressure — Virgin Atlantic completely gets you, and offers one date change, free of charge, across classes. There are also cool deals for parents — if both parents book a ticket along with their studious child on Premium Economy, one parent gets a 50 per cent discount on the base fare. However, this offer only holds for flights from India to the UK. These offers are open for tickets purchased on or before July 31, with a travel period open till October 31, 2014.

Stephen King, General Manager, Virgin Atlantic India, says, “Being a student-preferred airline we understand how it feels to say goodbye. With these offers, especially the ‘Buy Mom’s ticket and get Dad’s at half price’ offer, we hope to give that sense of security to students as well as their parents.”

Pay less, and shop too!
British Airways also makes allowances for students. If you’re travelling from India to UK/USA/Canada, you get extra luggage space — one complimentary piece of checked-in luggage in Economy (restricted to 23 kg). Also, taking visa woes into consideration, the airline also offers a full refund if your student visa is rejected by any country that was part of your ticketed itinerary.

In addition, the airline has partnered with Credila (an HDFC Ltd. Company), to offer competitive student loads. For you to make a good first impression, the airline also helps you get spruced up for college. British Airways has tied up with Indian and international brands (Macy’s, Marks & Spencer), and offers discounts on your wardrobe (valid till March 31, 2015).

Stay oriented
Qatar Airways invests in students as they have partnered with the United States India Educational Foundation (USIEF) as the official airline partner. They offer pre-departure orientation across India for students making their way to US universities. USIEF members get into the seminar free, while non-members pay a small fee.

46 kg
The extra baggage that Sri Lankan and Jet Airways give to students flying out from Mumbai.
Source: Savita Bhatt, Edwise

Case study: book early, fly cheap

Singapore isn’t too far from Mumbai, so I try to make more than an annual trip home. I don’t blow budgets, and so, I opt for the low-cost carrier Tigerair that flies from Singapore to Bangalore, and offers unbeatable deals. Though I have to buy an additional ticket from Bangalore to Mumbai, I still save significantly, since I plan in advance and also get deals on my domestic flights.

However, the major drawback with Tigerair is that of limited luggage allowance. So, when I need that extra space, I fly with Air India’s Maharaja Scholar’s offer where I can carry an additional 20 kg, over and above the regular Economy allowance. After years of trawling sites for fares, I’ve also found that the best deals are offline. But if you must buy online, clear your cookies each time you run the same search. I suspect ticketing sites collect cookies, and often raise fares for repeat visitors, so that you book in a hurry. — Mohit Patange, 25, MBA Student, James Cook University, Singapore

The cheat sheet
>>Offline agent: Online portals only display what’s currently available, while offline experts and travel agencies go further. Even if a lower class (and hence, lower fare) is not readily available, they can waitlist you on the same. Next, they use their rapport with airlines to get you a confirmed seat.
>> Single point of contact:  Consider working with a single provider who meets multiple requirements. Many travel agents can assist you not just with airfare, but also with visas, insurance, foreign exchange, hotels, etc. Having a single service provider proves easy on your pocket, and convenient.
>> Frequent flier programme: Most fliers don’t bother to collect mileage, but it’s highly recommended. Under the frequent flier programme, you can often enjoy additional benefits such as bonus miles, priority wait-list confirmation, upgrade vouchers, discounts on additional baggage, etc. Many airlines have also entered into alliances, wherein miles collected on one carrier can be utilised on another.
Source: Thomas Cook India

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