Airlines and travel agents work hard to make booking flights as easy as possible. But when it comes to the crunch, purchasing tickets is never simple for us customers.
The constant chatter about money-saving travel tips and fluctuating flight prices means we’ll rarely commit to the first flight option and price we see.
Unfortunately, finding the best flight for the lowest price means researching the cheapest days to fly, the most affordable airlines, and the quickest routes, which all lengthen the booking process.
No one wants to spend more money on flights than absolutely necessary. But can the day you book your tickets and the day you choose to travel affect the price that much?
According to our research, no. We couldn’t find any hard and fast rules on which are the cheapest days to fly.
There are simply too many variables that can influence ticket prices.
How airlines set ticket prices
Airline ticket prices jump around for a number of reasons. Here are just some of the factors airlines and the travel industry take into consideration:
- seasonality, supply, and demand
- cost of oil
- booking algorithms
- local, national and global economics
- special offers and competition between the airlines
- airport size, which dictates the number of flights that can take off and land.
With so many variables, prices can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. And many of them change no matter what day it is, which makes pinning down the cheapest day to fly difficult at best.
Seasonality, supply, and demand are arguably the main forces driving how airlines assign seat costs. According to Australian travel lifestyle site Traveller, airlines divide all available seats into categories (or buckets).
The number of seats allocated to a bucket depends on the likely demand, which is decided by a databank used by the airline. The higher the demand, the fewer the number of seats that get put into the lower price buckets. And vice versa.
This pricing method is used for both domestic and international flights. However, when researching the cheapest days to fly it’s easier to find trends in the cost of domestic travel. International flights don’t appear to have the same fluctuation. But whether airlines and travel agents release cheap airfares on set days is up for debate within the industry.
Cheapest days and times to fly
Is there really a cheapest day to fly? It depends on what article you read. And there’s a huge disagreement between what the research says.
On the one hand, some travel experts who have worked for years (if not decades) in the travel industry are convinced the cheapest days to travel are always Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
And there’s logic to their conclusion that booking a mid-week flight could save you money.
Demand for flights is likely to be lower during the week. When planning a trip for leisure, most of us think of going weekend to weekend so it minimizes how much holiday allowance we use up. And if weekends are the popular time to travel then mid-week demand is lower, and so should logically be cheaper.
Lower demand isn’t the only reason travel experts back Tuesdays and Wednesdays as the cheapest days to fly. Several articles suggest airlines are likely to announce deals on Monday evenings. By the time you wake up on Tuesday feeling sick of the working week already, you’ve got attractive travel deals available to help you plan your break.
While there may be anecdotal evidence, there’s no statistical data to back up the idea that airlines always release deals at the start of the week. And that’s where the Tuesday/Wednesday cheap deal theory falls flat.
Could weekends be the cheapest days to book travel?
While it sounds surprising, data-backed research suggests that Saturday and Sunday could be the best days to book your tickets.
A study by Texas A&M University (with the catchy title Price Discrimination By Day-Of-Week Of Purchase: Evidence From The U.S. Airline Industry) completely contradicts the Tuesday/Wednesday theory.
After analyzing historical archives of tickets purchased from major airlines, they found that ‘tickets purchased on the weekend were, on average, 5 percent cheaper than similar tickets purchased on weekdays.’
This isn’t the only paper suggesting weekends are the cheaper time to book. The 2019 Travel Outlook Report by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) found that booking travel on the weekend can save as much as 20% (36% if booked on a Sunday).
Start your travel on these days
Expedia and ARC champion Sundays as the cheapest day to book flights but they advise against starting your trip on a Sunday. It turns out Sundays are actually the most expensive day to start a trip. This finding is backed up by Cheapair.com in their Fifth Annual Airfare Study, too. If you’re conscious of cost, Expedia suggests flying on Thursday or Friday, while Cheapair says tickets are likely to be $85 less on Tuesdays compared to Sundays.
Will coronavirus make flying more expensive?
Pricing for air travel is all over the place at the moment. With coronavirus ripping through the world and grounding much of the air industry, it’s hard to know how ticket prices will be affected in the future.
As mentioned earlier, airlines base their pricing on algorithms and past data. But as one BBC article suggests, much of those scientific calculations and models are useless at the moment. Instead, airlines will need to look at people’s motivation for traveling and their confidence in air travel. Price adjustments may need to be based on emotions before the more familiar demand returns.
Finding the cheapest day to book flights is as clear as mud
As Smarter Travel says, ‘Ultimately, your best day to fly all depends on your route and your airline.’ With airfares constantly changing, it’s worth being flexible in your travel arrangements. Try checking flight prices a few times in the run-up to your trip, and if you notice a price that’s considerably lower than what you’ve been seeing then jump on it.
But if you don’t fancy playing the odds, and want more assured ways of saving money on travel, check out these six travel discounts that really work.
Already got a trip booked and want to save money?
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