The Best Time to Book Airline Tickets

Here’s a recent research study that reveals the best time to buy plane tickets – and it’s the exact opposite of what most people think. Folk wisdom says mid-week is the best time to book flights and hotels, but when it comes to shopping for airline tickets, folk wisdom may be wrong.

These researchers from Texas A&M University studied round-trip flights with nonstop service. They did not examine first-class airfare, or the holiday travel periods around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. They examined a historical archive of actual airline tickets purchased on all major airlines, and compared tickets with similar characteristics rather than simply looking at the cheapest fare available.

If you’re booking airline tickets for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter), this research doesn’t apply. Holiday travel is a whole different ball game.

The Best Time to Book Airline Tickets

A press release from Texas A&M University…

Saturdays and Sundays are the best time to book your airline tickets. “There’s been this industry folk wisdom that says Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to purchase airline tickets,” says Steven Puller, an associate professor of economics at Texas A&M. “But we couldn’t find any systematic analysis to back that up.”

Rather, he says, the weekend is the best time to book airline tickets because airlines are more likely to discount fares on Saturday and Sunday.

If you’re planning a resort holiday, read What to Pack for an All Inclusive Vacation.

In the study “Price Discrimination By Day-Of-Week Of Purchase: Evidence From The U.S. Airline Industry,” published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Puller and co-author Lisa Taylor, a former Texas A&M graduate student, found that airline tickets purchased on the weekend were, on average, 5 percent cheaper than similar airline tickets booked on weekdays.

“We find that when you control for a large set of factors – the day-of-week of travel, whether the ticket was refundable, the number of days in advance that the ticket was purchased, how full the flights were, and other factors – that tickets purchased on the weekends were sold, on average, for a 5 percent discount,” Puller explains.

The study further finds this weekend purchase discounts are greatest on routes with a mix of both business and leisure customers. There is not much of this type of discount for leisure destinations such as Orlando or Las Vegas, Puller notes.

Speaking of Las Vegas – if you’re booking airline tickets to Vegas, don’t forget about your accommodations! Sometimes it’s cheaper not to get a package. Read How to Book a Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada to learn how Priceline works.

The researchers suggest, although do not definitively conclude, that this weekend purchase effect reflects a common practice known as “price discrimination.” This happens when the same service is sold at different prices to different buyers, in this case, based on the day of the week that an airline ticket is purchased.

Puller says the airlines try to play the odds when deciding how to price flights. “Take a route that serves both business and leisure travelers,” he explains. “If the business travelers primarily purchase tickets on weekdays, then the typical traveler buying on the weekend is more likely to be a price-sensitive leisure traveler than a business traveler. There is an incentive for the airlines to lower fares on the weekends to try to entice the price-sensitive leisure traveler to buy a ticket.”

“If you’re a traveler who just wants to get from point A to point B for the cheapest price possible, then these findings [on when to book airline tickets] may not apply to you,” he notes. “But many people do care about these factors.”

best time to book airline tickets

Puller says these results could have implications for other industries that have the ability to change prices daily based on the types of customers who purchase on a specific day. “The software systems that are used in airline pricing are used in other industries such as cruises, hotels, car rentals,” he explains. “We’ve only analyzed airline pricing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if similar pricing practices are used in these other industries as well.”

Source: Research Finds Weekends Are the Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets, Texas A&M University.

Do you book airline tickets on a specific day of the week? I tend to look at airfares several times over the course of a couple of weeks before I book my plane tickets. If you do the same, remember to delete the cache on your computer and clear your browser, else you’ll get old data.

If you’re hesitating to book airline tickets because you’re scared to fly, read How Sandra Bullock Overcame Fear of Flying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *