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The Cheapest Airfare? Here’s When to Book

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of claims that this or that is the optimal time to book flights at the lowest airfares. For one thing, that would credit the airlines with operating according to a strict pricing logic, whereas in fact airline pricing seems wildly chaotic. Plus, if there were an easy best-time-to-book rule, it would be widely known and followed. Which isn’t the case.

Nevertheless, organizations large and small continue weighing in with their own recommendations as to the best timing to book flights.

The latest is from CheapAir, which today released results of its own analysis of airline pricing trends, based on a review of 917 million airfares in 8,000 markets.

According to CheapAir’s 2018 Airfare Study, the lowest airfares are typically to be found between 121 and 21 days in advance of the departure date.

That date range, what CheapAir calls the prime booking window, is for flights within North America.

Seasonality

While the prime booking window is a good overall rule of thumb, the cheapest-airfare windows differ somewhat by season, as follows:

  • For summer flights, book 14 – 60 days in advance
  • For fall flights, book 21 – 100 days in advance
  • For winter flights, book 21 – 110 days in advance
  • For spring flights, book 46 – 122 days in advance

Best Days of the Week

CheapAir also looked at the day-of-the-week question, another perennial traveler conundrum.

First, there is no categorically cheapest day of the week to book travel. One day’s as good as another for making reservations.

However, there are cheaper and more expensive days to fly. Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest, and Sunday is the most expensive. “Flying on Wednesday instead of a Sunday will save you an average of $76 per airline ticket.”