Airfares are notoriously volatile and the logic behind the differences in flight prices between routes, days of the week, and even round trip vs. one way flights seems nearly nonexistent to many of us. Although prices on consumer goods fluctuate somewhat as well, it is less common to walk into a store and find that the item you purchased last week now costs 50% more or less than what you paid. Of course everyone who flies wants to get the tickets they need at the best possible price, especially those of us trying to plan a family vacation on a budget. But how do know when that will be?
Traditionally, passengers have been advised that Tuesday (especially Tuesday afternoon) is the best day to get a good deal on airfare because airlines tend to roll out their discounts on this day after seeing what their competitors charged on Monday.
More recently, however, new data examining prices on all tickets purchased over a year and a half have shown that the average fare is actually lower over the weekend, particularly on Sundays. The sudden deep discounts do still tend to appear on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, however. Some of the reasons behind this change are noted in this Wall Street Journal article, including leisure travelers’ increased ability to search for and purchase tickets at home on the weekend. The same article also notes that the cheapest time to buy tickets is 57 days before a flight (or to give a bigger window, between three months and one month before). After this point, prices begin to increase and typically continue to climb through the date of the flight. Unlike shopping for certain holiday items where retailers tend to deeply discount Valentine’s Day candy as the day approaches or passes, airline fares are not usually subject to this type of clearance-sale pricing, especially now that the number of flights available has beed reduced and competition for seats is fiercer than it was several years ago.
Other factors that impact the price of airline tickets include, of course, including the destination, dates and even times of travel, and layovers. IN general, the more flexible you are, the better price you will be able to obtain. Another option if you have some time and flexibility and don’t mind some risk of a price increase is to set up an alert on a site such as Airfare Watchdog that continually searches fares for your desired routes and emails you when the fare changes or drops below a set price. Many of the major travel sites now offer this option as well.
So the next time, you plan a trip, mark your calendar for the weekend 2 months before hand and start checking flights. If you find a good one, you might want to scoop it up, or if you’re feeling lucky, wait and check back on Tuesday or Wednesday to see if any discounts have been introduced. Don’t wait long past that, however, or prices are likely to increase.
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