Study: The Best Time To Score Cheap Airfare Is Six Weeks Before The Flight

Everyone uses their own timing strategies when it comes to buying airfare — too close to the flight and you’re bound to pay out the nose, too many months in advance and you’ll see that same fare drop in price. A new study puts some science on the issue, coming up with the magic number of six weeks before a flight as the best time to buy.

The L.A. Times cites a study by Airlines Reporting Corp., a company involved in ticket transactions between airlines and travel agents. They took numbers from millions of transaction over the last four years and found that passengers buying six weeks before they fly paid about 6% below the overall average fare for the country.

“We’re not advising people to purchase tickets only at this time during the cycle as there is no guarantee they will receive the lowest price of the year,” said Chuck Thackston, managing director of data and analytics for the firm. “It is just that the data indicates we have seen this pattern over the last four years.”

And as anyone who’s ever had to buy a ticket a few days before their trip might know, the study did show that prices jumped sharply a week before travel. If you wait until the day you’ve gotta go, the price can be as much as 40% higher than the average price.

Adjust your strategies accordingly, then — or if you’ve got a method that works, by all means, stick to it.

Lowest airfares found six weeks before flight, study says [L.A. Times]

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  1. thomwithanh says:

    And there are Essential Air Service routes, like where my parents live. Buy a ticket two months out, its $89 one way, buy it the day of at the airport and its still $89 one way, buy a ten flight commuter book and it drops to $79 per ticket.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      I sure love subsidizing people who choose to live in remote places.

      • absurdist says:

        And when you can demonstrate that absolutely nothing in your life is subsidized by anyone, then I’ll be happy to listen to you whine.

        I would suggest you look up the definition of the word community.

        • George4478 says:

          So, if subsidies affect any part of your life, then you must accept ALL subsidies as good things? That’s ridiculous.

        • SuperSnackTime says:

          That’s a ridiculous premise. Many of the subsidies we *enjoy*(?) as U.S. citizens have no opt-out option.

  2. Cor Aquilonis says:

    I buy my tickets about four months out. I just get anxious about making sure I have a ticket, so I take care of it right away.

  3. James says:

    There’s more to it than that. The service is very beneficial for communities in remote Alaska, or out west where large cities are 300-500 miles apart.

    However it’s ridiculous to keep it just for the sake of community boosterism so a town can brag they have air service – for example towns like Muskegon, Michigan has it when Grand Rapids is just 30 miles away, and less of a drive (by time) than folks in major markets commute to their airports. (Like driving from Pasadena to LAX.)

  4. wrbwrx says:

    I bought a ticket from Boston to LAX with an 8 day advance for $300. I dont think i could have done better 6 weeks out.

    • James says:

      totally. there are some great deals a few days or week out – when airlines put efares and specials out to fill seats.

      I’ve done weekend getaways for around $200, buying Tuesday/Wednesdays and flying Saturday to Monday. If it’s not essential travel and you’re going for fun and are flexible you can find lots of short term deals.

      • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

        Yeah — we just booked an international flight months ago. The difference between weekend to weekday flights is about $1000.

        Hopefully weekday flights (mid-week) are less stressful. I’ve been to domestic flights for work, and it seems the first flight out on a Monday has a lot less (if not any) screaming kids, compared to Friday night return trips.

    • SuperSnackTime says:

      I’m guessing that a (meager) 6% savings “on average” is concealing an enormous amount of variance. One of those instances where the average hides more than it reveals.

      To be fair, too lazy to read the original research. But I am familiar with analysis in this domain of commerce. And the above statement held true for any previous analysis I have read.

  5. Coles_Law says:

    add to the “Why Southwest is awesome” pile-if you book early and the price drops, you can rebook at the lower price for no fee and get the difference as a credit.