When Do Flight Prices Drop?

Airlines · 4 min read · Jul 26, 2022
when do flight prices drop

Flight prices seem to change randomly, with airline tickets moving from expensive to cheap to expensive again without any apparent logic. Yet, the truth is that these changes do not happen randomly since airline ticket prices have everything to do with flight demand.

When flight prices drop, that specific route has lower demand than expected. On the contrary, when ticket prices go up, it is because demand is higher. Of course, it is not easy for people to know when demand is up or down to buy their tickets. But there are some workarounds.

If you want to learn more about when flight tickets drop, keep reading as we give you more details.

Airline tickets intraday prices

Prices tend to change only once a day. However, they can change at any time of the day and any day of the week, and depending on the route and the airline, they can actually change several times in one day.

It is also important to understand that intraday changes can be more common in seasons like summer or holidays when demand usually increases more quickly.

A person at the airport holding a travel bag, a passport and their boarding pass.

Do ticket prices drop closer to the departure date?

Unfortunately, many people believe the answer to this question is a yes, but the truth is that flight tickets are more expensive the closer you get them to the departure date.

CheapAir.com 2019 Annual Airfare Study found out that if you want to enjoy cheaper flights, you should book your plane tickets between four months and three weeks before your departure date.

However, if you book them after that period, you must expect the same plane tickets to be more expensive.

The fact is that this is related to the type of traveler airlines are trying to target with their flight prices. Many airlines know that leisure travelers tend to book flights with more time in advance and pay careful attention to their budgets. They also know that business travelers pay more without much concern, especially when they use corporate credit cars, and they are used to booking flights near the departure date thanks to the availability of flight booking websites.

Therefore, the cheapest fare is usually offered far in advance before the departure date to fill seats with leisure travelers, while they increase prices as the departure date approaches to get more profits from business travelers.

What days do flight prices go down?

This is still an open debate with some people saying that flight prices change independently from the day of the week and that is a myth. Meanwhile others say cheap flights are usually found when traveling on weekdays, especially when it comes to international flights.

In fact, some people go more specific and say airfare prices for domestic flights are cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and any weekday will do for international flights. They also say the best deal is usually found on Tuesdays.

Do flight prices really drop on Tuesdays?

The belief that prices drop on Tuesdays may be attributed to the way most airlines and travel services deal with competition, or used to for that matter.

Many airlines used to schedule their sales on Tuesdays after getting information from their competitors on Monday nights. As a result, competitors would match and compete on the same day, into Wednesday morning. However, technological developments have given airlines the tools to basically get information in real-time, so any day could see flight prices change nowadays. And the myth has already been proven.

According to a study by Travohelp, “the average fares bought on each day of the week were virtually identical”, and Hopper discovered that “Tuesday was the cheapest day to buy a flight for just 1.6 percent of domestic routes.

Nevertheless, the Travohelp study found that the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday, and the best flight deals are found in January, followed by February without considering the actual day. As expected, when buying a flight ticket for the summer, the flight prices go up significantly.

What time of night do flight prices drop?

Following the study performed by Travohelp, to understand how the time of the day affects booking flights, it is important to understand the process airlines and travel services use to determine whether the flight prices go up or down.

These are the steps of the process:

  • On Mondays, airline executives examine how seats sold over the weekend
  • Then, they determine what the airfares should be. They look at what rivals charge for routes on Tuesday mornings and adjust their fares accordingly.
  • They settle on the most competitive prices by the afternoon.

According to this, plane tickets are the cheapest on Tuesday afternoons, so that would be the best day to buy. However, we already mentioned that lower prices depend on demand, meaning that any other day could be the cheapest day. For example, the cheapest time could be a Sunday morning if the travel date is the Monday after and the airline still has a lot of seats to fill. Yet, this does not happen very frequently.

Also, buying a ticket for spring break, summertime, or Christmas on a Tuesday afternoon may not be the best way to find lower fares, at least not necessarily, since those are normally in high demand.

Another belief is that some airlines reduce fares at midnight, usually on Monday nights. This may be related to the process we mentioned before. Once more, the fact that airline fares are reduced overnight on Mondays makes Tuesdays the favorite day. It may not hurt you to try Tuesday afternoon to find the most suitable flight.

A boarding pass, credit cards and a passport placed on a travel bag.

Conclusions to draw

So, when do flight prices drop?

There isn’t a single clear answer. Air travel is a complex business that requires airlines to forecast demand for each flight well ahead of time so they can price them properly enough to be profitable.

Of course, they will want a flight to start getting seats filled as early as possible so they can adjust fares more easily.

Therefore, thinking that you will bet a better price if you book a flight very early is logical. However, it has been proven that the sweet spot to book a flight is 70 days before the departure date, with the prime premium booking window between 21 to 127 days in advance. Those could be your lucky days.

On the other hand, the worst time to book flights is during the last week before flying, with flights getting a couple of hundred dollars more expensive in that period. Therefore, you should avoid waiting too much. The only way you could justify the extra cost is in case of an emergency.

Finally, remember there are more aspects that affect the price of flights. Airlines take advantage of the increase in demand during the holidays, with the most expensive month to fly being December according to CheapAir.com’s most recent study. If you really want to save a lot, you may want to fly in February, but be aware there may be hikes due to Valentine’s Day. Also, take advantage of any special deals or discounts you can easily find now online.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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