CALABASAS, Calif. — Air travelers are always asking, “When is the best time to book my flight to…”? After analyzing 1.5 billion air fares, CheapAir.com has determined that in 2014 the best domestic fares were found booking, on average, 47 days in advance, while international fares should be purchased further ahead.
This was based on a review of almost 5 million trips, covering 15,000 markets, watching fares booked between 1 and 320 days in advance.
“When you buy your flight makes a huge difference,” said CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee, who noted that the study found that the price of an average trip changes 70 times during the period it’s available for sale. “No one wants to find that the person sitting next to them on a flight paid $100 less for their ticket. We spend a lot of time collecting and analyzing fare data so our customers can make more informed decisions.”
In fact, the study found that the average savings that could be achieved from buying on the “best” day versus buying on the “worst” was $201 per ticket.
Analysis of the data revealed a general pattern that, beginning when flights open for sale 11 months in advance, fares tend to drop slowly but steadily until reaching a low point somewhere between 27 days and 114 days out. CheapAir calls that three month window, between one and four months in advance, the ‘prime booking window.’ “Way more often than not, the best fare for a domestic trip will be offered at some point during that window,” Klee said.
Not surprisingly, the study revealed that travelers should make sure to buy their ticket at least 14 days in advance, or pay an average of $111 more. That amount jumps to $174 more if you buy within 7 days.
But it also revealed that buying a ticket too early, can be costly, too. Tickets tend to be about $50 more expensive than their eventual low point when flights first open for sale.
The study found different dynamics exist for domestic and international flights, concluding that for international flights it is generally best to book earlier than the recommended window for domestic. The best time to buy cheap airline tickets to Latin America, for instance, averaged out to 96 days in advance. To Europe it was 276 days – that’s about 9 months! Mexico was close at 251 days and Asia was even more extreme at 318 days.
Of course, airlines are constantly monitoring booking trends and have their own yield algorithms that tell them when to drop prices.
The CheapAir.com blog offers more details on the study and when to buy airline tickets.
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