If you knew how airlines change their prices, you would think twice before buying. But if you’ve never traveled before or don’t know why airfares change, you could end up paying more than needed.
All we want is to travel from point A to point B on a convenient date. Preferably, we want to complete the flight fast and pay only as much as necessary.
But because airlines have to work on profitability, their goals may be different than yours. Although it depends on your brand, most companies will charge you as much as you’re willing to pay, not the minimum.
Isn’t that frustrating? Not if you know the trick to buy them low.
How AirFares Work
The way airfares change is a bit to like the stock market. People are always trading for the best price they are willing to buy and sell: offer and demand.
In an airline company, you want people to book as many flights as possible. You make profits by getting more customers, more flights per hour, and cutting off non-essential expenses.
But sending a plane with ten people isn’t as efficient as sending it at full capacity. Because of it, the airlines will change the seat price based on the number of seats available.
It can be an advantage or a problem, depending on how you time it. As a rule of thumb, the best deals are always for those who reserve four to seven weeks in advance.
The popular belief is that Tuesday 3 PM EST is the best moment to buy. But as you can see, you could find great deals anytime based on supply and demand. We’ll later explain why this moment of the week works so well.
Why The Same Airfares Cost 10X More
You might get some perks for paying more, but they still don’t justify charging thousands for a one-hundred-dollar seat.
You can get cheap seats with a bit of luck. But remember that waiting doesn’t always work in your favor. If more people start to book the flight, prices may increase even further.
#1 Few Travelers
It’s the easiest way to get a cheap flight. When not many people want your date or destination, even the most expensive airlines lower their fares.
Book in advance, and you could get closer to the price point you consider fair rather than “the most you’re willing to pay.”
#2 Loyalty discounts
A saying in business is, it takes more effort to bring new customers than to profit from the existing ones, especially when these come back often. If you always choose the same brand, you could get a discount and fly for cheaper.
Some credit cards offer airline discounts as a perk for spending X amount of money using them. If you’re going to buy things anyway, why not get some cashback and rewards?
Check our guide on credit card churning if this topic interests you.
#3 Canceled reservations
Can’t you find the best deal? If you’re flexible with your travel schedule, you could still get on the plane if someone cancels at the last minute for whatever reason.
When cancelations happen, you could find a plane ticket for the same price the other person bought it. Generally, prices get higher when there are fewer seats available. If the earliest passenger cancels the reservation and you buy it, you’re getting the best deal for that flight.
Because it depends on luck, we recommend you reserve your seat regardless of the price. If someone cancels later, you can cancel and re-purchase this ticket if it costs less than yours.
#4 By mistake
Sometimes, airlines publish test offers for a few minutes, but they weren’t planning to sell them to people. Maybe they wanted them to be super-limited, or they were preparing these for the travel season.
If you had an airfares alert, you could have found those bargains and taken advantage.
How To Really Save On Plane Tickets
#1 Fly on weekdays
Airlines may up prices on weekends because of demand. But if you fly on Tuesday or Wednesday, for example, it won’t happen. If you’re taking the first flights of the day, you’ll save money as well.
When booking, you may want view offers on Sunday due to the lower demand. And because some airlines don’t update promotions until Monday evening, Tuesday 3 PM has become the best day internationally. Ironically, this common knowledge may make Tuesdays more expensive.
#2 Book early
Book your flight three weeks in advance, preferably as soon as it becomes available. You don’t need to book seven weeks before unless you’re choosing a popular destination, such as the New York Airport.
#3 Compare offers
You may get the best prices from the same company two or three times. But no brand has the best fares all the time. You can’t predict how many people will book a flight or cancel a reservation. Getting the best price is still worth comparing with other airlines.
#4 Check the airline website
Because companies value customer loyalty, booking online may lead to exclusive discounts or saving money on your next flight.
Most companies have a points reward system on their website. The more you travel with them, the cheaper it becomes long term. Although you want to sign up for these, you shouldn’t still limit your choices to a single brand.
It’s helpful to know what flight you want and the date. But a plan that’s too rigid may make you miss on other great deals. If you look for the exact date or price range you want, you may wait way too long and feel disappointed.
Rather than being specific, make a list of essential features. For prices, give some margin for flights over your budget. For dates, think of the earliest and latest your plane can be, and look for those ranges.
#6 The 24h rule for price alerts
Cancelations often happen because some people do the reservation game. They book a flight they might like just because it looks cheap. If they find another cheaper or don’t want the ticket anymore, they drop it.
But canceling reservations doesn’t always get you a full refund. Your flight date must be at least one week from the present, and full refunds apply for the first 24 hours after reserving. If you still have time but don’t want to miss your 100% refund, you could cancel every day before the 24 hours and take that offer again.
If your airfare price alert shows a new lower offer, try to reserve those. If prices go up instead, you should either wait a few days or keep your current plane ticket.
#7 Beware of low prices
People think of low prices as a good thing. The airlines are one of the few business sectors where people are comfortable paying ten times more for the exact same service. You can take advantage of low prices as a result of lower demand or offers placed by mistake.
But that can make it harder to recognize potential airline scams. What if you find a flight under $100 in some sketchy website? Perhaps it’s a phishing website copied from a well-known travel advisor.
Whenever you feel like you’re getting something for nothing, beware of the common scam tactics. It always seems unlikely until it happens.
Just because many people are booking a flight, it doesn’t mean you can’t find better deals than them. Some travelers may cancel, or the airline could drop places.
Prices also decrease as the flight date approaches, because it means there’s less time to book flights. At the same time, it means fewer seats available.
If you want to complement your travel saving plan, you may find these guides helpful: