There Is a Best Time to Purchase an Airline Ticket. Sort Of.

April 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The process of purchasing an airline ticket has become something out of an episode from Survivor — can you outwit, outlast, outplay the airlines and get the price you want? It seems someone is finally seeking to form an alliance.

Mobile boarding pass for KLM. One of a few versions of an airline ticketExpedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation joined forces to conduct an immensely comprehensive data study, analyzing 10 billion flights, to provide you with a detailed strategy for getting the best price on an airline ticket without having to sell your soul at a tribal council.

First, let me tell you when it’s time for you to go: you can actually get the best fare by traveling on the weekend. Business flights are much more expensive than those catering to leisure travelers, so flights that take you to or from your destination over a weekend will be more affordable than those departing during the week. That should help you know when it’s time for you to go.

Here’s the skinny: airlines change their prices multiple times a day. George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog suggests checking, at a minimum, four times a day, every day of the week, as far in advance as you can. Sheesh. Yes, it may take a little work to find the best deal.

One point to consider: Travel sites will often embed cookies in your web browser to see if you’ve been checking and rechecking prices. Rather than refresh the prices each time, and give you a different price, they’ll see which prices you checked before, and give you the same ones. You can avoid this if you open a Private window (Safari) or Incognito window (Chrome) on your browser every time you visit.

The study reveals that airfares went down eight percent during the study period (October 2014 to October 2015). Based on this trend, here are some numbers to consider when booking travel this year.

You’ll generally see a savings of 10 percent if you book a flight anywhere in North America 57 days before your scheduled trip. You’ll get the best deal on a ticket to Asia Pacific if you book 160 days in advance, an 11 percent savings. Your wallet will be happiest — again, saving 11 percent — if you buy your tickets to Europe 176 days in advance. In other words, if you’re going to Europe in September, start looking today.

The challenge is on!

Photo credit: mtcv (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

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