Imagine it's now 11am and you've found out you have to be in Auckland later in the afternoon for an early morning meeting the following day. Chances are you'll probably look at the Air New Zealand website and book the flight most suitable for the time you want to get there. Correct? What if I told you that you easily could save hundreds of dollars simply by booking the flight you don't want?

If you look at the Air NZ flight summary screen you'll see four different fare options -

  • A seat only fare allows you to take a carry on bag.
  • A seat+bag fare allows you to take a carry on bag and a checked bag.
  • A flexitime fare allows you to take a carry on bag and a checked bag. It also allows you to change your flight on the day of travel for free.
  • A flexiplus fare allows you to take a carry on bag and a checked bag. It also allows you to change your flight on the day of travel for free, and allows changing to another day by paying the fare difference between the two flights. It also allows the fare to be cancelled with a full refund.

As you can see from the screenshot below flexitime fares are $30 per person more than a regular seat only fare. If you're looking at a flight to Auckland later in the afternoon and are after a seat only fare you'll see that prices range from $229 up to $329.

Imagine you're looking at the 5:15pm flight and dreading the $329 fare...

Now look at the flexitime column - you'll see the 1:45pm flight is only $99 for the flexitime fare. As the flexitime fare allows same day changes for free, you can book this fare and immediately change it online for free to the 5:15pm flight and save yourself $219 for a few minutes effort.

The same trick works booking a flight in advance. If you looked at the above flights and wanted to book a flight for the next day, or even the next week, you can simply book the cheapest flexitime flight of the day and then change it on the day of travel (anytime after midnight) to the flight you want and potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars.

I know a number of people who book flights weeks in advance and always rely on booking the cheapest possible flexi fare and then changing it on the day to suit their requirements.

If you are going to do this you need to fully understand the risks that go with this - on many regional routes flights can often be full meaning there won't be any flights to change to; likewise even on main trunk jet routes special events or disruptions could mean less choice or even full flights that mean you may not be able to change to the flight you want.

If you're going to try and game the system you need to be fully aware of the risks of losing. If you book tickets and can't change to the time you want or can't change to another flight on the same day you'll potentially find yourself stuck and won't receive any help from Air New Zealand. You'll also very likely need to buy a new ticket to get to your destination the following day.

On the other hand if you're a frequent flyer who understands the risks and are willing to take them, you could find yourself saving pretty significant amounts of money very easily.