Best purchase time of airline tickets
Admit it — you, me, everyone is obsessed with finding that most elusive of deals: incredibly cheap airline tickets for our very next trip.
Now let me share what I know about when to find great airline tickets deals.
Airfare myths and realities
Let’s begin by pointing out that the airlines know a lot about our buying habits. For example, according to travel industry statistics, they know we shop at four to six Web sites before we actually make our airline tickets purchase. They also know we aren’t anywhere near as loyal to airlines as we used to be. The reason is a simple, two-part equation:
Our goal: find cheap airline tickets.
Airline goal: sell expensive airline tickets.
Now, this is where the games begin — and where many of the most popular air travel shopping myths start. Among my favorite myths:
- _ Buy your airline tickets just after midnight on Tuesdays.
- _ Airlines raise prices for weekend departures.
- _ Wait until the last minute to buy your airline tickets.
Here’s something you should know: The people who espouse these gems have no clue when it comes to how an airline decides to price its tickets.
Some fun background stuff.
The 10 percent rule
Airlines, in general, only set aside about 10 percent (or less) of their seats for the very cheapest prices. Most flights have about eight price points, or levels of pricing: four different prices for leisure travelers and four different prices for business travelers (who purchase inside the 14-days-before-departure rule).
How firm is that 10 percent? Well, just so you know, I have spent many hours trying to confirm what several airline people have told me, and that is: If an airline promotes an airfare in the media, it must sell at least 10 percent of the seats at that fare. Sorry, but I have yet to find this rule written down, anywhere.
But let’s say it’s true; that still means 90 percent of us are not going to get the cheapest tickets. That is simply an airline, economic fact of life. But can you increase your chances of getting the cheapest tickets? Of course. Let me show you, and let’s bust some myths along the way.
Don’t shop at the last minute
Shop early (but not too early).
Planes are packed these days, so the last-minute deals that helped airlines fill up their planes are no longer necessary. You may come across one from time to time, but do not count on it. Instead, start shopping (not buying) early; typically, airlines start actively managing their cheapest tickets about four months before departure.
Look for trends, and use technology to help you see when your destination normally has the cheapest airline tickets available.
Don’t buy too early; airline tickets purchased before this four month window will generally be priced at a midtier level. An exception: shopping for busy holiday times (Thanksgiving, Christmas); due to current price hikes and ever-increasing fuel surcharges, you may want to purchase these tickets earlier than usual, to lock in the price.
Best days to purchase airline tickets
Bottom line: airline tickets sales tend to occur early in the week. Not always, but usually. And increases tend to occur at the end of the week.