If you’re planning a holiday, you’re probably already panicking that you’ve left it too late and are going to get stung with higher prices.
You might have tried asking around for some tricks of the trade, and set out to book Tuesday-Tuesday trips instead of leaving or arriving on the weekend.
However, it might be time to forget some of the supposed givens of air travel, as they’re not quite as clear-cut as you might have thought.
According to CheapAir’s recently-published 2018 Airfare Study, quite a few preconceptions might not actually be true.
The study looked at 917m airfares and, while its focus was on domestic flights in the United States, there are some things we can take from it when considering our plans for domestic and international flights from the UK.
While January might generally be the best time to book flights, CheapAir has some guidelines related specifically to how close to your trip you should try to book.
And if you thought the answer was ‘as far in advance as possible’, you’d be wrong.
They’ve split the booking windows into six, from ‘First Dibs’ right through to ‘Hail Mary’, and it won’t surprise you to learn the latter category will result in both the highest prices and the worst choice of seats.
The ‘Prime Booking Window’, however, is closer to the date of travel than you might think: cheaper prices and more choice comes 21-121 days before your trip, and the 70-day mark was found to be the cheapest on average.
You won’t be surprised to learn the price can go up quite a bit when you’re booking within three weeks of your flight date, and the ‘Playing with Fire’ window (1-2 weeks before) will result in pretty steep charges.
However, if you end up booking 14-20 days before getting onto the plane (a.k.a. ‘Push Your Luck’), it might well end up costing no more than if you’d booked a half-year ahead in the ‘Peace of Mind’ stage and will often be cheaper than ‘First Dibs’ bookings.
The price variations are huge, too, with some flights costing more than $200 more if you book at the ‘wrong’ time. However, all of the above research factors in timings of sales, and the chance of having to pay more for in-demand routes.
As for the ‘right’ time, it’s not the same all year round – you’re advised to book further ahead for spring trips and wait a little longer before committing to a summer holiday, though autumn and winter are both closer to the 70-day mark.
Finally, that line about booking on Tuesdays? That one’s actually true – Tuesday or Wednesday is the best day to book, and Sunday is the worst, though part of that will be down to some people being unable to book during the week.