Travel Smarter: When And When Not To Buy Airline Tickets

by | January 13, 2015

When planning your next trip, whether it be for business or leisure, you may be tempted to either purchase your tickets immediately to get that step out of the way, or you may be tempted to put it off for as long as possible, hoping that a good deal be announced.

There is a significant amount of research available that can help you to know when the best times and the worst times are to purchase airline tickets. Knowing these trends can help save you a lot of time and anxiety. By knowing the best window of time to purchase your tickets, you can set an alert on your phone or an event on your calendar and forget about it – voila! – no more stressing about your airline tickets until it’s time to purchase them.

The Best and Worst Days of the Week

For the last several years, Tuesday afternoon has been touted as the best day and time to purchase your airline tickets. The reasoning behind this is that sales for tickets are generally launched on Monday nights, and so by Tuesday afternoon, all the other airlines have adjusted their pricing/sales to compete with the sales announced the previous evening.

This trend is still true, making Monday the most expensive day to purchase airline tickets, but the cheapest airline tickets are actually typically purchased on Sunday with Saturday being the next cheapest day. A September 2014 study by the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) also found that the most expensive days to purchase are Monday and Friday when business travelers are often purchasing their tickets.

It is important to note that this information may be slightly misleading since it is based on the tickets that were actually purchased during a given period of time rather than on the prices that were available. Business travelers tend to purchase their tickets on weekdays and are often more willing to pay a higher price in order to have the exact flight or amenities they prefer. This most likely explains why higher priced tickets were purchased on weekdays rather than on weekends when it is mostly leisure travelers making ticket purchases.

Leisure travelers are less likely to have specific dates and times that they must travel or other such restrictions and are able to shop around for flights based more on price than convenience. This means that if the same leisure travelers who purchased their tickets on the weekends had purchased their tickets on Tuesday or even Wednesday when ticket sales were active, the findings of the 2014 ARC study may have been vastly different.

In summary, the best days to purchase airlines tickets are most likely still Tuesday and Wednesday with Sunday and Saturday being the next best option. On the other hand, Monday and Friday are the standouts for being the worst days to purchase airline tickets.

The Best and Worst Weeks

Just knowing the best day of the week to purchase your airline tickets is not enough since the week that you choose to purchase your tickets is equally as important. The ARC study found that on average the lowest tickets can be found 57 days before your intended travel date if you are traveling domestically. On a larger scale, it was found that between 100 and 50 days prior to your travel date is the best time to purchase your domestic airline tickets. On the other hand, the worst weeks to purchase your tickets are the two weeks leading up to your flight or anytime sooner than 100 days out.

For international trips, the ARC study found that sales begin sooner in general as compared to domestic flights. The magic number of days to purchase your international ticket in advance seems to be 171 with the overall window of lower fares lasting from 150 to 225 days prior to your departure date. The worst weeks to purchase your international tickets are the 4 weeks prior to your travel date.