Affordable Travel Guide to When to Buy Airline Tickets

Is Thursday the Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets?

When to Buy Airline Tickets

When to Shop for and Purchase Airline Tickets at the Best Prices

When should you buy airline tickets? The short answer is: with as much advance timing as possible; as soon as you know when you are going to fly, get your tickets right away. If there is some doubt about your dates of departure and return, hold off, because changing tickets that are booked and paid for always involves an added cost. But are there certain days of the week or times of day when the cheapest airline tickets are available? Remember: It’s Not like Buying Concert Tickets They’re your favorite rock band, and you know the one-night show will be sold out, so you get ready with your speed-dial or on your computer, trying (like everyone else) to be first in line. But airline tickets don’t sell that way, and if you monitor the websites of your preferred airlines, or sign up to receive their promotional e-mails, you can be first to know about special deals and reduce airfares. Unlike concert tickets, airline tickets seldom have completely fixed prices, and then to fluctuate a little, almost up to the moment the plane takes off! But the fact is, you’re far more likely to get a better fare overall of you book as early as possible. Period.

Who Studies this Stuff, Anyway?

There is a body known as the Airlines Reporting Corporation (visit www.arccorp.com for more information) and is responsible for ticket transaction settlements and processing between airlines and travel agents; it produces reports regarding its statistical information, and there is a clear indication that booking domestic flights six weeks prior to departure will almost always net the best price in airline tickets. If you wait until the last minute, you might (just maybe) get a slightly lower fare, but you also risk the flight being sold out and having to rearrange your travel plans; at what cost?

The Farther You Fly, the Sooner You Book

Flights between North America and Europe or Asia should be booked even longer in advance, as much as 24 weeks to guarantee the best priced airline tickets. In-season fares are always higher closer to the time of travel. For example, the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii are in peak season in the North American winter months, as is Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific (their summer months). Europe, Canada and the U.S.A. are in peak season from June to August. If you fly long-distance in peak season, book as far ahead as possible to save money on airline tickets. Curiously, this long lead-time increases with each year, and shows no sign of getting shorter any time soon. That’s the price we pay for the popularity of travel. Keep Checking Travel analysts are predicting a busy summer travel season. The fact is, they say that every year, and in some cases they’re right, but not always. Still, it’s fear-of-loss, a common marketing technique to get you to buy your airline tickets as early as possible. The sooner the airlines have your money, the better their cash flow. You might want to check www.farecompare.com to do your own analysis, and that won’t be based on scare tactics by marketing executives!

Fares are Increasing

Despite strong competition and the iffy global economy, airline travels and tickets are in demand. Airlines commonly increase prices three or four times a year, resulting in an approximate average increase of 17% per annum.

Of course, budget and no-frills airlines are always aiming to offer lower airline ticket prices, so you might want to start there, but never assume they’ll have the lowest airline ticket prices; do your homework and compare! And these pays travelers often overlook travel agents, assuming their customary $50 (or more) fee is a waste of money, when in fact they may be able to save you hundreds on airline tickets; it doesn’t always save you money to book directly.

Fly into Cheaper Airports

Huge airports like Toronto Pearson, London Heathrow and Chicago O’Hare have extortionate landing fees for aircraft, so if you wanted to go to the U.K., try to find a flight to Manchester, or even Glasgow and then take ground transportation to London. It could save you hundreds of dollars, but might eat up a day of your vacation.

Avoid vacations in places that are hosting major events, like a Rolling Stones concert or the Olympics; visit those places at another time when demand for tickets to get there is accordingly less robust.

Often, business class airline tickets are cheaper in peak holiday times like July and August, or on Saturdays. If you’re lucky, you might get that upgrade for what you expected to pay in any case.

Use the World Wide Web as Your Tool

Here is a list of websites that track airfares, and some of them even offer e-mail travel price drops alerts directly to your in-box! A lot of airlines also do that directly. For example we at Affordable Travel receive almost daily alerts from Porter Airlines (www.flyporter.com) because they’re our first choice from Halifax to Toronto, Montréal and several other eastern cities in the U.S.A. and Canada.

  • Visit www.bing.com and search for their algorithm-driven “Price Predictor Flights”.
  • An unpopular site with airlines, www.yapta.com tracks drops in airline prices, enabling people holding airline tickets to ask for a voucher for the difference between what they paid and the reduced price.
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA), based in Montréal, Canada, offers an information service that can help you in acquiring the knowledge to properly compare flights and airline tickets. It’s a bit of work, but may be worth it; you can find them at www.iata.org.
  • Look into www.kayak.com for “hacker fares”, buying each leg of your trip on two different airlines and saving money on tickets.

There has been a rumor flying (pun intended!) around for years that the cheapest tickets can be had on a Thursday. Maybe this applies if the Thursday is 24 weeks before you will be airborne, but generally speaking, airline ticket prices are not lower on any particular day of the week. You might get lucky one Thursday, but it’s apt to be coincidental, not a strategy by the airlines. Our best tip? Sign up for price drop alerts from your favorite airlines, or call a travel agent.

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