Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece about the US airfares earlier this week that is available on their website here.
Traditionally, the Tuesday has been considered the best day of the week to purchase discounted air fares because that is the day when airlines tend to start their sales. It is not, however, the day of the week when the average sold fare is the lowest.
You can access the WSJ piece here (If you cannot access the article due to pay wall, just use Google search for “The Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets” and you can then read the entire piece):
Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes tickets for travel agencies and handles about half of all tickets sold, tallied up ticket sales. Over a 19-month period ending in July, 130 million domestic and international round-trip tickets worth $94 billion showed the lowest average price, of $432, was on Sunday. At $439, Saturday’s average is also lower than Tuesday, which averages $497.
This is not such a big surprise because business customers don’t purchase tickets (at least not usually) during the weekends but during weekdays and these tend to cost more as they are often purchased at the last minute.
The ARC study, which looked at tickets sold in the U.S. through online and traditional travel agencies but not airlines directly, also showed that the cheapest time to buy domestic trips was 57 days—about two months—before departure. Most people don’t buy that early: The average purchase date was just over one month before departure. By then prices have started their climb.
The average domestic round-trip, including taxes and government fees, was $496. Yet 57 days before a flight, the lowest average was 19% lower, at $402.
International ticket prices didn’t fluctuate much between 10 months and three months before departure. Through that seven-month period, the average price of tickets sold range between about $1,000 and $1,150. Then about three months before departure, airlines start raising prices.
Most people book too late to get the lowest price, of course. International tickets get sold, on average, two months before departure. Average cost: $1,368.
WSJ also had this interesting graph about how the price of the airfare changes depending how close or far our you purchase it in the US. International fares tend to be the cheapest when bought far out in advance and domestic tickets when purchased 57 days before the departure.
Very interesting WSJ piece and definitely worth a read. Remember that this is based on the US data and may not apply universally. In many countries most of the airfares are sold at the very last minute and I haven’t seen such a huge difference in buying 10 months in advance versus a week.