What’s the cheapest day of the week to buy an airline ticket?

Since January of 2010, the airlines have become, in one way at least, surprisingly predictable.

What’s the cheapest day of the week to buy an airline ticket?

Photo courtesy of www.mnn.com

In almost 3 out of every 4 weeks during this period, one or more airlines has launched a fare sale sometime late in the day Monday that was valid for bookings through Thursday of the same week.  Since airlines almost always match each other’s sale fares, this has led to a bunch of Tuesdays filled with fare reductions, as one airline after another has filed its own sale fares.

Of course, some of these sales are a lot better than others and how good the deals are each week is still anybody’s guess.  But, still, the pattern is unmistakable.  For domestic travel at least, the best days of the week to buy tickets have lately been Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Wonder how long until the airlines start mixing it up again?

18 Comments

  1. i really don’t think there are cheap airfares. You are not offering any kind of discount on airfares. i am only finding outrageous prices 2-3 months out.

    • Sue Ellen: You sound pretty frustrated and we feel your pain. The simple fact is that fares this summer in most markets are higher than they’ve been since 2008. There are a couple reasons for this: first, the high price of oil; second, the reduction in capacity. Just about every airline has cut their number of flights over the last 2 years. This means there are more passengers chasing fewer seats, which gives the airlines a pricing advantage. But it’s not hopeless; there are still deals to be had. Luckily, you have a little time if you’re not travelling for 2-3 months. Keep checking fares (we suggest at least once a week). If too many people like you hold off on bookings, you may see the airlines start to lower fares.

    • Susan is right on it. Airlines have become another blood sucker of the commercial world. Fares are horrible
      service is worst and they are charging for everything but the air you breath. They call this the free market
      nothing is free about this industry but the freedom they have to take advantage of the consumer!

  2. Why is it that tickets from SJU to NYC are cheaper than ones from NYC to SJU on the same days? To be specific, cost for tickets from 12/22 to 01/02 from NYC to SJU are double the cost than those from SJU to NYC. It is frustrating trying to get decent air fares for the Christmas Holidays.

    • Virginia: It is actually not uncommon for fares in one direction to be more than the fares in other. It means that the flights coming from New York on the 22nd and likely more heavily booked than the flights coming from San Juan. That makes sense, actually. You would expect more people from New York to be heading to Puerto Rico for the holidays, then the other way around. For a little more detail on how air fares work, and why flights that are heavily booked cost more than those that aren’t, check out this blog post from a couple months ago.

  3. I have even found cheap prices on saturday mornings at like 6 or 7am. I try to monitor things on bing and other websites, but when it says the price will go down it will rise another $40 before it goes down. It’s ridiculous. I’m hunting several sites just to find the times i’d like to leave. Im not comfortable bidding on a flight because who knows what I will get stuck with.

  4. Frustration is not the word, airlines are beyond rediculous with there fares, and not only with fare but the flights schedules, the layover n time are unreasonable. I oftern wonder who schedules these flights, a whole day layover to connect to the next flight is outrageous, I been trying to find a flight to Aguadilla PR without having to go around the world to get there so far unsuccessful.. does any airline fly from Az to miami miami to Aguadilla?? That would be such an easy n quick route. I’ve looked as far as august with prices off the roof!!
    I will hold out to they decide to lower the fares.

    • Emilia: Aguadilla is a tough market from the western U.S. Believe it or not, there are no flights from Miami as you might expect. Most of the U.S.-Aguadilla flights leave from the New York area (from Newark on Continental, or from Kennedy Airport on JetBlue). Spirit also has a flight from Ft. Lauderdale, which might be your best bet. You’ll have to get a little creative here. Try searching for fares from Arizona to Ft. Lauderdale and then separately from Ft. Lauderdale to Aguadilla. Hope this helps!

  5. I love cheapair its the best way to price tickets on all airlines at once. they cannot offer discount simply offer a wonderful service without dealing with each airline. My husband lives in north dakota and I live in california. he travels 6+ times a tear and we use cheapair every single time. The best day I have found to book usa travel is on Wednesday afternoon/evenings. The other day Tuesday was $1600 and on weds night the same flight was $864. if you want to save you need to put in the time like your travel agent used to search for the lowest fare. I saw the other day allegiant airlines was offering tickets for 10 dollars each way long beach CA to las vegas NV. Yes the airlines are having to cover fuel and prices are going up. But if you dig deep and plan on the right day you will save. A little work goes a log way to save you cash.

  6. Does this hold true for international flights? Should I wait until Monday or Tuesday to book?

    • Lily: Good question. The answer is no. International fares don’t change nearly as much as domestic fares and they generally are not subject to weekly fluctuations. That doesn’t mean there are not sales from time to time, but those sales are much rarer and hard to predict.

  7. Ditto,Brad. You think after the public announcement of the billion$ for luggage fees,etc and the relatively low score on airline improvements, the consumers could receive some compensations (for the inconveniences of longer waiting times, privacy invasions,etc) IN FORMS OF FARE REDUCTIONS OR EVEN REBATES for ALL the troubles customers are FORCED to deal with. Thanks for the com-VENT/comment!

  8. I would like to travel to eastern europe and travel around on the railroad for a month or two. Why are one way tickets higher than round trips to the same destination?

    • Paul: I know it seems odd, but sometimes it is true that a round trip ticket is actually cheaper than a one way ticket. This is especially common in international markets. Airlines always offer a “full” unrestricted fare in each market (you can fly any time, you can cancel for a full refund, you can change for free). These fares are priced each way and are very expensive — few people ever buy them. In addition, there will typically be a number of “discount” fares that offer big savings off of the full fare but, in return, require you to meet certain restrictions (e.g. ticket is non refundable, travel must be roundtrip, must be bought a certain number of days in advance, etc.) If you are travelling in a market where there are no discount one way fares, you may find that there are round trip discount fares for less than the full, one way price. For this reason, if you are flying one way we always suggest that you check the round trip rate, too.

  9. I recently booked a Mileage Plus free ticket to Germany. In the past, I have paid $25 to United. This time I was charged the 25 plus $178 for the “free” ticket. United claimed they had always charges taxes; not true because I have gone before on a freq flyer ticket and only paid the $25. What is going on??????

    • Yea, unfortunately, for international award tickets they will get you for the taxes. This isn’t new and it’s not just United, all the airlines do it. When you’re flying within the USA, it’s not normally a big deal but when you go overseas there are departure taxes, customs fees, a bunch of German taxes, and possibly more if you are flying through any other country.

  10. What is the best time and day to buy airline tickets going to the Manila, Philippines from Reno, Nevada?

    • Hi Christy,

      Ultimately being flexible with your travel dates and time will save you the most money. Flights are cheapest during the low season (July – October) when travel is lighter. The best days where fares are generally cheaper are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturdays. With all that said, another way to save would be to drive to Sacramento or another international airport where flights will be cheaper than if departing from Reno.

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