Finding cheaper flights to be a science. Nearly all people looking for the cheapest flight would like to know when is the best day to fly, which is usually the day with the cheapest fares.
There are tons of myths and misconceptions surrounding this topic, but it’s not as complex as some people think. Certain airlines do release their “sales” on certain predictable days of the week, but not every airline follows this pattern.
Most flights are cheaper at off-peak times. For example, it’s usually cheaper to fly during the middle of the week than on a weekend, because business travelers tend to fly Monday through Thursday, and they drive up prices. Similarly, it’s usually cheaper to fly after or before major holidays than on or around them.
But it’s also important to remember that there is no magic day or time when you’ll always see good deals: It depends on the route you’re flying and when you book your ticket. Flights will vary in cost on any given day based on factors like demand, availability and even weather conditions.
However, if we look at data from several years’ worth of airfare searches for domestic round-trip flights in economy class from U.S. cities (averaged across all departure cities), we can see
We’re all looking for the cheapest flights. That’s not a secret. But what is a secret is how to find them. Airfare pricing is based on several factors that are closely guarded by airlines and their trade organizations, however we do know a few things about how to get the cheapest flights:
– Fly mid-week – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually the cheapest days to fly
– Fly early morning or late in the evening – these are known as “red-eye” flights and can be up to 60% cheaper than flights at peak times of day
– Fly with no baggage – many airlines charge for checked bags nowadays, so it may be worth paying for an airline that does not charge for checked bags**
If you want to find the cheapest time of day, day of the week, or month of the year to fly, you’ll need to be a bit more scientific.
Here’s how it works. First, select your itinerary and dates. We’ve found that Thursday-to-Sunday trips are generally more expensive than flights from Monday through Wednesday (though don’t forget to check out our weekend flight deals).
Once you’ve entered your travel dates and origin/destination city pair, use the “Show flexible dates” feature and set the +/- 3 days slider to see fares for a longer period (up to +/- 7 days on some airlines). This will show you fares for several days before and after your preferred travel dates—you may be surprised what an difference a day or two makes in price!
If you’re still not sure when to buy, try using our Fare Compare tool. This handy feature allows you to compare fares across a range of dates to see when prices are lowest.
There are two ways to get a cheaper flight.
The first is to get the airline to charge you less. You can do this by being a good customer: flying with the same airline all the time and racking up miles, or being one of those people who gets to use the special telephone number that puts you through to a real person in seconds instead of an hour.
The second is to know when they will charge less, and buy then. But when is that? Airlines have daily, weekly and seasonal cycles in pricing, and if you know these it is possible to save a lot of money on your ticket price.
Typical advice for picking an air flight is to look at a variety of search engines and price aggregators, and then book the cheapest fare. This advice is not wrong, but it’s incomplete. It assumes that the only variable you care about is the price. If you have no preference for the time of day you fly, or don’t mind flying from Newark instead of JFK, this advice is fine. But if you do care about such things, it can be improved upon.
Flying from several airports? Unless your time is worth very little, you may want to skip the cheapest flights, even if they’re only slightly more expensive than others. Why? Because they might be inconveniently located. For example, do not be tempted by seemingly low fares out of Newark airport (EWR). The EWR airport is notorious for being a pain in the neck to get to, with two-hour traffic jams on the highways leading into and away from it.
Flying at an inconvenient time? If you’re flying out of town and back again in a single weekend, don’t be seduced by supposedly low fares that require leaving at 4 am Saturday morning and returning Sunday night at 11 pm. These flights will probably cost you a hotel room as well as a lot of stress
First, when you’re buying a flight, think about whether the trip is for business or pleasure. If it’s for business, your company will probably want to get you there as cheaply and quickly as possible, so price should take priority. For leisure trips, however, your schedule might be more flexible. Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday might save you money, and if you don’t mind leaving early in the morning or late at night, you can often find cheaper flights for those times.
Secondly, consider the average weather of your destination at the time of year when you’ll be traveling. If it’s a place that gets snow in the winter time and you’re going there in January, you should expect higher prices than if you went in June. In general—and especially during peak seasons—cheaper flights are often found further in advance (for example, booking three weeks before rather than one week before your trip).
Thirdly, certain airlines have lower fares than others. For example, Southwest Airlines has become known for its low fares and lack of baggage fees (a huge win if you travel light), while JetBlue Airways is famous for its roomy seats and extra legroom (great if comfort is a priority).
Fourth on our list is to check the average
I have a colleague who goes to the airport several times a week, and always takes the first flight out. In fact, he often arrives after me at the office, even though he flies in from an airport that’s twice as far away as I do.
I asked him why he does this. He said, “It’s the cheapest flight.” Really? Turns out that it is. But here’s what he hasn’t figured out: it’s about $50 more expensive than the last flight of the day. So for about one extra hour of waiting he could save $50. Why does he do this?
Who knows. It bothers me, but then again I’m a little crazy (see above).