Busting Cheap Airfare Myths

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Think you know the best time to buy a ticket? Think again.

Planning to hit the beaches on spring break or take your kids to a theme park during school vacation? Better buy those tickets soon.

A new study from CheapAir.com indicates that the lowest prices can be found about seven weeks out.

The study also addresses questions like “When’s the best time to buy a ticket for Thanksgiving?” and “Is Tuesday night really the best time of the week to buy a ticket?”

The answer to the second question, by the way, is “no.”

“This is one of the most surprising things to me,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com.

After all, doesn’t “everyone” know that the best time to buy is around midnight Monday? But Klee’s data sugests that while many sales are advertised late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, they tend to be “a limited number of seats and only for certain flights and dates.”

Besides, he says, plenty of “unheralded” sales are announced throughout the week.

CheapAir.com crunched data from more than 560 million search requests last year to come up with this information. Generally speaking, the fare progression looked like this:

  • When tickets first become available for a flight, fares stay on the high side for a while.
  • Two to three months out, airlines look at how ticket sales are going and “how aggressively (they) have to discount.”
  • Up to about one month out, prices were fairly low and fairly stable.
  • At the one-month mark, fares went up pretty drastically.

The prices go up – who knows where they come down?

Klee notes that these are averages, not absolutes. Still, they’re a decent general indicator of how prices are determined in general.

Sure, incredible deals are sometimes available at the last minute. Often they aren’t.

“For everyone who lucked out with a great price at the last minute,” he says, “there were thousands who couldn’t find one.”

A few other things to keep in mind:

If you’re interested in going to Europe this summer, start looking no later than 81 days before you want to leave.

As for Christmastime travel, the best deals appeared about 14 weeks out.

Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly and Sunday is the most expensive. There’s an average difference of $58 between the two days. Thus the more flexible you are, the more you’ll save.

Finally, if you’re buying through CheapAir.com (or just about anyone else), give yourself an additional layer of savings by purchasing through a cash-back shopping site such as Mr. Rebates, Extrabux, or Ebates.

More stories on DonnaFreedman.com

Stacy Johnson

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