Most airlines allow passengers to book tickets about 330 days out from departure date. Even though 11 months sounds a bit arbitrary from a passenger’s point of view, it actually makes a lot of sense from the airline’s perspective. And when an airline publishes fares has a lot to do with planning and scheduling for the upcoming year.

Do airline itineraries stay the same year over year?

Yes and no. An airline’s popular routes will largely remain the same year over year. However, most airlines see some changes in schedule based on customer demand. If the airlines don’t allow passengers to book too far out, it allows it to be a bit more flexible in terms of what flights it can offer.

What factors can cause an airline to change or cancel an existing route?

Sometimes an airline will find that a route was not profitable for the previous year. Sometimes an airline may need to add additional flights or change the schedule to accommodate other routes.

Airlines also have to essentially rent space at every airport, and each airline is allotted a specific number of gates based on capacity and usage each year. The larger airlines prefer to have as many gates as possible, as it can be difficult to get them back once ceded.

When does each domestic airline publish fares?

  • Alaska Airlines: 330 days before departure
  • Allegiant Air: Varies based on flight (6-9 months before departure)
  • American Airlines: 331 days before departure
  • Delta Airlines: 331 days before departure
  • Frontier Airlines: varies based on flight (on average, 258 days before departure)
  • Hawaiian Airlines: 330 days before departure
  • JetBlue Airways: varies based on flight (6-10 months before departure)
  • Southwest Airlines: varies based on flight (7-8 months before departure)
  • Spirit Airlines: 330 days before departure
  • United Airlines: 11 months before departure

Should you purchase your airline ticket as soon as an airline publishes the fare?

When you buy your airline ticket is also a decision based on many factors. Travelers who shop on price alone should wait until fares tend to be lowest, a time in the airfare’s life we call the “prime booking window.”

If you want to be the early bird, the main benefit to this tactic is that you’ll get the most choice on any particular flight. But the fares are usually a decent amount higher on publish date.

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