When is the Best Time to Buy Your Airfare?

The Microsoft Bing travel service has an amazing feature that claims to be able to predict if the current airfares will go up or down on the itinerary you're researching.

I noticed an article in the NY Times earlier this week about when is the best time to buy an airfare.  That is, for sure, a murky topic that we’d all love to know the answer to.

Is the best time immediately before travel (almost certainly not), eleven months before travel (typically the furthest out you can buy a ticket) or somewhere inbetween?

I went to read it, and laughed silently as I did so, because although it posed the question, it didn’t really provide any answer at all, other than to quote some sources that say one thing and then quote other sources that say other things (including some nonsense such as the expert who referred to Berlin as a major hub to use to base airfare estimates on).

I ‘knew’ I’d written on the subject myself, but discovered, to my surprise, that apart from some oblique mentions, I’d never given it full attention, and so decided to write a quick overview with some hopefully helpful suggestions.

Well, you can probably guess what happened next.  The ‘quick overview’ ended up as three web pages and almost 7,000 words in length.  I’d like to justify its length by saying that I’ve prepared the definitive and complete answer on the subject, but sadly that’s not really the case.  Instead, the 7,000 words indicates the complexities of this subject and the difficulty any of us have in coming up with a clear certain answer to the question ‘When is the Best Time to Buy My Ticket‘.

But, let’s not despair.  Instead, please do click on over and wade through the material – learn about one service that says it can save you, on average, $50 per ticket, and another service that says it can save you an additional $330, on average, every year.  How’s that for some incentive to go visit the article series!

As always, your comments and your own suggestions at how to beat the airlines at their own game of pricing obfuscation are welcomed.

1 thought on “When is the Best Time to Buy Your Airfare?”

  1. If you buy Southwest, you can always “re-buy” if a lower price comes up and use the difference for future travel. So in that case, buy as soon as you know you are 80% sure of going. Even if you cancel, you have a year to use the funds for future travel – anywhere on Southwest. And 2 bags free!

    Airlines don’t know until close to departure date how full a flight will be. Often they have flights that are packes and others leaving a few hours earlier or later that have many unsold seats. I would think once they get to “oversold” levels (cannot sell more seats), they would email people who had purchased tickets 30+ days before and offer, say a $50 credit for futher flights, to those willing to change from the oversold flight to the less crowded one. That would open up some top price seats on the popular flight. And a $50 credit on future flight costs little and sort of locks that passenger to use the same airline next time. Furthermore, the cost of denied boarding would be lowered.

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