Got to fly sometime soon? Knowing a little bit about average airline pricing might help you find the best airfare.
Book early if you can – more than three weeks in advance, but not too early. And try to fly mid-week.
CheapAir.com recently released its 2018 airfare study, in which it analyzed nearly a million flights in more than 8,000 markets to try to find the prime booking window and the best and worst days of the week to fly.
Here’s what they found:
First, the “prime booking window” is 21 days to 121 days in advance of your flight – more than three weeks out to about four months before the trip.
Earlier than that, and you pay more because you’re getting “first dibs,” in the Cheapair.com’s parlance – you’re paying a premium for booking early and having the peace of mind of knowing it’s taken care of.
There can still be decent deals even more than four months out – keep in mind you have more options at that point, so you can shop around a bit.
But you also might miss deals that the airlines start running in the months before the flight. During the “prime booking window” of 21 to 121 days is when you’re likely to find the best deals, according to Cheapair.com.
“Its not as though you won’t see fares change in this zone but fares average within 5% of their lowest here, and you’re most likely to see a cheap fare pop up,” the website says.
Once you hit that sweetspot of 21 to 121 days before your trip, there’s also a sweetspot within the sweetspot.
“In 2017, for flights within the continental U.S., 70 days in advance was the best time to buy your airline ticket on average,” the company says. That, of course, is an average, and some flights may go down in price closer in, naturally. But generally, if you can buy at about 70 days pre-trip, you’re likely to get a good deal.
Push Your Luck
Once you get within 14 days of your trip, you’re starting to push your luck in terms of airfare.
“This close to your travel dates, the fares usually climb and a lot of the aforementioned options are selling out,” the website says. “However, there are pockets of luck in this zone. We can’t make you any promises but some of those lower fares may still be available.”
Within the lst two weeks before your flight, you are, the website says, “playing with fire.” It’s better to book 10 days before than a couple days before, but it’s going to be more expensive than during the prime booking time farther out. The website calls the period less than seven days before your flight a Hail Mary period when you’re likely to pay, on average, more than $200 more to fly than you would if you’d booked during the prime window.
Ever wondered if there’s a cheapest day of the week to book flights or to fly?
There’s not much difference in price based on which day you book, the website says. You won’t save any money trying to time that.
But there are days that are cheaper to fly.
“Heck yes! Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to fly.,” the website says. “Sunday is the most expensive. Flying on Wednesday instead of a Sunday will save you an average of $76 per airline ticket.”