Update 20 August 2010: Well it seems like the rules have changed. Apparently a lot of people had been whining to grabaseat that they couldn’t type their details in fast enough, so the grabaseat team have caved to public pressure and now bookings are secured as soon as someone hits the payment type button. This is bad news for the methods I mentioned below because it means there’s no advantage in having your details stored, or even in using air dollars instead of your credit card. Grabaseat have advised you do need to be logged into the grabaseat site for this to work (note: the login to this site does time-out). I guess the golden days are over for getting the jump on everyone else! Having said that it is still possible, especially if you’re only grabbing one seat and it’s mid-week – here’s a snapshot showing a seat to Auckland I grabbed and the time limit counter that appears.

Update 22 June 2010: I’ve had word from Greg at Travel Cafe and he tells me they’ve just started offering a new service that could help you snag those $1 grabaseat fares even quicker. Check it out!

Update 4 January 2010: Attention fellow grabbers. Since I wrote this I’ve discovered an even better way to grab cheap seats but you’ll need Air NZ air dollars (a great way to collect air dollars is get yourself a Go Fly Mastercard from Kiwibank). If you’ve got enough air dollars to cover the cost of the flights (and already have your nominated giftee set up) then just login to www.myairnz.com and set up the flight finder for the cheap fares you’re gunning for. The advantage of being logged into myairnz.com instead of grabaseat is that it doesn’t timeout, so as soon as you get your Twitter txt that the fares are online you can go for it! I bagged about six flights using this method. The crazy thing is now I’ll go spend $200 on accommodation and airport transfers for the weekend!

By now the ‘world famous in New Zealand’ website known as Grabaseat (or GAS to people in the know) is synonymous with cheap fares, sometimes ridiculously cheap. Like right now, for the whole month of October, there are $1 air fares to all sorts of destinations around NZ going every single day. Of course most of us only discover these amazing fares after all the shouting and online hustling is over. All we see is that depressing ‘sold out’ icon swinging, as if rubbing salt in the wound, like ‘hey you loser, too slow, you missed out … again!’. So what’s the secret to actually grabbing a seat on grabaseat?

Improve your chances of grabbing a cheap fare with a few tricks
Improve your chances of grabbing a cheap fare with a few tricks

I think firstly you need to accept that you won’t always get the fare so don’t start making plans or dreaming about what you going to do when you get there, until you’ve actually got the tickets and a confirmation email from Air NZ. Don’t worry there’ll be other chances and the fact is there is a lot of competition for these seats (just check the users online figure in the top right!) so you can’t expect to always get the seats you want no matter how fast your internet connection is, or how fast your mouse/keyboard skills are!

Tip 1 – Get notified about upcoming specials

There’s no point finding out the day after or even 10 minutes after the specials have come online, so you really want to get advance notice. There’s a few different ways you can do this and you may as well do all of them. You can now register with GAS (see image above – 1) and receive a daily email sent really early and letting you know what deals are coming up for your chosen departure point or all routes.

If you are an RSS user (e.g. you have Google Reader or Outlook collecting RSS feeds, if you do you’ll know what I’m talking about) then add the GAS RSS by clicking the RSS icon (see image above – 2). I don’t actually use this option because I’m not a huge fan of RSS; I find that most feeds are overdone and end up feeling like spam.

Twitter – Follow GAS on Twitter by clicking the icon and then clicking Follow (you may need to register first with Twitter). GAS are pretty good at updating their Twitter feed and generally reply to all messages they get as well as sometimes giving their followers exclusive advance warning of special deals throughout the day. The other great thing about Twitter is that you can also register for mobile phone updates. You’ll need to setup your phone as a device on your Twitter account first, then go through the list of those people you’re following and click the cellphone icon to receive that individual’s tweets direct to your phone.

Tip 2 – Get ready to scramble!

Now that you got the heads up those cheap fares you wanted will soon be showing on the GAS site, it’s time to ready yourself for the mad dash. There’s a few things you should think about in advance. What dates can I NOT go away? There’s no point booking flights for that weekend you’re getting married so nix that idea. Also if you can’t get time off from work there’s no point booking flights midweek. Who am I taking with me? You’ll need all their details like name and airpoints number, and if you’re wanting to use your air dollars for their flight then you’ll need to have them setup as a giftee well in advance of booking your flights.

Also have your credit card details handy if that’s your payment of choice (you won’t be able to use your Google Toolbar Autofill feature – sorry!).

It’s also a good idea to be registered with airnz.co.nz (see image above – 3) since you can quickly login when picking your flights and your details will be automatically filled in on the passenger details form (you could login prior to the flight deals being released but the login has a short timeout so you’ll probably find you’ve been logged out when it comes time to pick your flights). Make sure you have your login details ready to go!

So there’s a couple of things you might find helpful. I know been prepared has worked for me at times. The other day I scores a couple of dollar flights to Dunedin. I’m not entirely sure why but for $2 I didn’t really need a reason.

So what have you found helpful? Any tips you want to share on getting cheap fares? Apart from actually working for Air NZ!

Top tips on grabbing cheap fares on Grabaseat
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