Cheaper fares: Does the day you buy matter?

BY LINDA LOYD
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/TNS

Travelers everywhere would like a magic potion to predict the best time to buy an airline ticket to get a good deal at the lowest price.

Although seasoned travel advisers say there is no perfect moment to book an airfare, a recent study by Expedia Inc. and Airlines Reporting Corp., or ARC, suggests that based on thousands of flights in 2016, the lowest average ticket prices were purchased on weekends, especially on Sundays.

Expedia crunched numbers gathered by ARC from corporate travel companies and online and brick-and-mortar travel agencies and determined that flights within the United States booked on Sunday were 11 percent cheaper.

Waiting for weekend
Flights from the United States to Europe were 16 percent cheaper, and between the U.S. and Asia, fares purchased on Sunday cost 10 percent less.

“One reason that you are going to see average ticket price on Saturday and Sunday being so much lower is because of the type of travel that is purchased,” said Chuck Thackston, ARC’s managing director of enterprise information.

Most travel purchased on the weekends is for holiday or leisure travel, while more “premium” or business travel is booked during the week.

“Business travelers booking at the last minute, those fares will typically be higher,” Thackston said. “Airlines are aware that leisure travelers are looking on the weekends, so they’ll make those fares available on the weekend.”

Another take
Others say the picture is more complicated.

“I have never experienced that purchasing the ticket on a certain day of the week makes any difference,” said Jeffrey Erlbaum, president of ETA Travel in suburban Philadelphia. “The fares don’t change very much from day to day. It’s availability that generally makes a difference.

Somebody might have booked that flight, a group, and that’s going to jump your fare up.

“I’ve seen no rhyme or reason to the fare sales,” Erlbaum said. “A fare between two points can go on sale any time, but if availability on the flight you want isn’t there — if the flight is full — that’s going to make a difference.”

When to fly
George Hobica, founder of the fare alert website Airfarewatchdog.com, said: “As far as Sunday being the best day to buy tickets, that’s nonsense. An incredibly low fare can be snuck into the reservation systems any day of the week in terms of booking.”

But not in terms of flying, he said. “Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to fly.”

Erlbaum said availability on flights is greater on Wednesdays, and that translates to lower fares.

“As the flight gets fuller, those lower-fare buckets get sold out, and you are pushed into a higher-fare bucket.”

Tickets purchased 21 days in advance are usually cheaper than closer-in purchases.

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