Watch for a price drop before you book your tickets. (Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images )
- Ways to Save on Airline Tickets
- The Best Times to Buy Flights
- The Best Day of the Week to Book Airline Flights
- Airfare Secrets
Tracking airfare and looking for the best prices is as complicated and dangerous as a warrior fighting dragons in a darkened cave, but with a handy head start into the psyche of airline ticket pricing, you can burrow into the cave of air travel booking with the brightly shining flashlight of an informed consumer.
Fare Compare claims that the best time to buy airline tickets is Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. If an airline decides to have a fare sale, it will post it on Monday night, releasing the tickets first thing on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, other airlines will try to match the price and begin their sales in the early hours of Tuesday. Then, travelers have the best chance of buying a seat at a decreased price by purchasing on Tuesday afternoon. But buy quickly; the airlines usually pull the sales by Thursday evening.
First Release Drop
You may be a planner, but if you buy airline tickets too far in advance, you could be missing out on big price drops. Airlines do not release their “sale” seat tickets for domestic flights until three or four months before the flight. If you are watching flight prices for your a trip more than four months down the road, wait until you see that first price dip. If you act fast, you can buy one of the first sale tickets and experience a significant savings over full-fare tickets. For international flights, this drop occurs four or five months before the departure date.
Wednesdays are traditionally the cheapest day to fly, according to a Fare Compare study of historical airfare data. Airlines generally offer sales on all flights during the middle of the week, but Wednesday seems to be the least desirable day to fly. That’s the day on which you can expect the most steeply discounted fares.
If your travel plans are flexible, you might want to wait for a last-minute drop. This can happen on a Tuesday or Wednesday before weekend flights, or even just a day before flights are set to take off. Airlines try to get rid of seats on undersold flights, and they sometimes offer last-minute sales to entice travelers to buy. If you are flexible on your destination but not your dates, sign up for last-minute deal alerts on various airline and travel service websites and wait to see where fate takes you.
- Fare Compare: Cheapest Days to Fly and Best Days to Buy; Rick Seaney; July 2011
- FareCompare: Understanding Airline Ticket Prices; Rick Seaney; January 2011
Emily Manthei holds a masters degree from the University of Edinburgh and has written for publications as diverse as the “Oxford Journal of Theological Studies,” “Emanuel Levy Film Reviews,” “USA Today” and “Northern Express Magazine.” She also writes screenplays for short and feature films.
It’s a myth plenty of us plan around: The earlier a flight is booked, the cheaper the fare. But, according to new data from travel-planning startup Fareness’, this theory doesn’t always hold water. Flight fares are so unpredictable, and it’s actually things like being flexible with dates and having the ability to travel on a Wednesday (the cheapest day to fly) that can make the difference, according to the site’s recent study on airline fares. Another big factor? Whether or not you’re willing to spend the time comparing rates from different carriers. To save you some time, Fareness shared which airlines (usually) have the cheapest fares, with some caveats.
Spirit Airlines wins for cheapest fares
Over 70 percent of the time, budget Spirit Airlines has the best rate for its routes. With fares averaging about $73 dollars, travelers can fly cross-country to one of the airline’s 56 destinations between North, Central, and South America. But, while these fares may sound like a dream come true, be sure to read the fine print: A carry-on on a Spirit flight can cost anywhere from $35 to $100 dollars, choosing a seat by your travel companion can set you back up to $50, and there are no snacks or in-flight entertainment offered. In other words, on this ultra-low-budget airline, you often pay less—but you also get less. It’s possible to keep these fares low, but it takes a few hacks to get the cheapest deal (with fees).
And the runners-up are.
Check Spirit’s cheap fares plus fees against Fareness’ runner-ups, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue. Hawaiian, which flies to Asia and Australia, as well as domestically, and JetBlue, which has free live TV, doesn’t charge for snacks even on short domestic flights, and has more legroom than your average budget airline.