There are 747 cargo holds stuffed full of advice on when you when you should pull the trigger and buy a plane ticket. For awhile, everyone seemed to think you had to buy your ticket on Tuesdays if you ever wanted to save money. Today, that theory has been thoroughly been debunked. Other pieces of once accepted knowledge have fallen by the wayside too, after online airfare aggregator Cheapair.com released the results of a massive flights study last week.
After surveying nearly one billion transactions, they came to some clear conclusions about when to buy your ticket and when to actually travel. The 917,000,000 bookings from over 8,000 markets across the world paint a clear picture, and should motivate you to hit the road.
There is no “day” to score a cheap flight. It’s a window of time.
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It bears repeating. No, you’re not going to magically get a cheap ticket on Tuesdays. The report found that prices on flights change constantly from the day they go on sale until the flight departs. There is a sweet spot though.
The site found that if you book around 70 days out from your departure date (on flights in America), you’re going to most likely get the best price. Interestingly, this was not the same as the previous year. 2016 clocked the best day to buy at 54 days before departure. This means there are fluctuating “windows” for the best prices.
Cheapair.com breaks it down like this:
- “First Dibs” or 169-319 Days in Advance
- “Peace of Mind” or 122-168 Days in Advance
- “Prime Booking Window” or 21-121 Days in Advance
- “Push Your Luck” or 14-20 Days in Advance
- “Playing with Fire” or 7-13 Days in Advance
- “Hail Mary” or 0-6 Days in Advance
Air tickets generally go on sale up to 10 months out. Between when they go up and the first 147 days, you should expect to pay a higher price that’s almost always on the decline. The next phase lasts for about 46 days and continues on the downward trend price-wise.
The next window of time is when you want to buy. The “Prime Booking Window” lasts 100 days — about four months to three weeks before departure. That’s a big window, we know. But around 70 days out from the departure date, the prices will bottom out and that’s when you should buy.
What’s interesting is how quickly prices start to ascend. Two weeks to 20 days before departure and prices are already back up to the beginning of the “Peace of Mind” phase. Then the last two phases over the last two weeks before the flight look pretty unequivocally like the most expensive time to buy a plane ticket, by far. Prices jump up well above all other times to buy and nearly double. We guess you could call this a tax for the indecisive and those who have to fly last minute.
Either way the data is clear — buying a flight at the last minute is not the way to save money on travel.