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The Best and Worst Times to Book a Flight

March 16, 2016 4:27 am

Did I really get the best deal, or should I have waited for more savings?

With airline rates seemingly changing on an hour-by-hour basis, it can be difficult to determine the best time to book a flight. A recently released study hopes to narrow down that window.

“54 days [out] is a good number to start with, but it’s important to know that every trip is different," says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, which conducted the study. "That's why we have what we call the ‘Prime Booking Window,’ which is between 21 and 112 days before departure. For most domestic trips, the best time to buy will be somewhere in that range.”

The Prime Booking Window is ideal for bargain hunters because fares fluctuate often, sometimes day to day. Look for cheap airline tickets frequently during this period, and don’t hesitate to book if a deal pops up, Klee says.

This finding debunks the perception that first-comers reap the most savings. Those booking 197 to 335 days out may have their pick of flight times, nonstop options and seats, but they also pay an average of $50 more per ticket than they would during the Prime Booking Window. Similarly, those booking 113 to 196 days out pay an average of $20 more per ticket than they would in the Prime Booking Window.

On the other end of the spectrum, fares vary wildly 14 to 20 days out. Depending on how full flights are, travelers may get a fantastic deal, or they may pay significantly more, Klee says. As expected, popular flights during peak seasons are less likely to have low fares in this window, according to the study.

And last-minute bookers— those making arrangements at zero hour—pay an average of $75 more per ticket than those booking in the Prime Booking Window. That premium shoots up to $200 in the six days before the flight.

“Generally, a trip price starts off high, slowly drops and then starts to climb a few weeks before the flight,” Klee explains. “People ask all the time if it's true that at the last minute the airlines have unsold seats that they practically give away, but that's rarely the case.”

Source: CheapAir®

Published with permission from RISMedia.