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Cheap Flights 101: How To Snag An Inexpensive Plane Ticket (INFOGRAPHIC)

How To Score Cheap Plane Tickets
Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

It may seem like an art but finding the cheapest plane ticket is more of a science than anything else.

If you've ever wondered how airline and travel booking sites come to that special number to withdraw from your bank account, know this: it's actually a variety of factors, some which you can control and others you can't, working together to determine the price of a flight.

Things like class, the time and date of the flight, destination and ticket purchase date are all up to shoppers but things like competition of routes are factors travellers will just have to deal with, according to an infographic produced for Cheapflights UK.

But what it really comes down to is seat demand. Seats are broken up into price classes based on certain restrictions like refundability and length of stay. Typically, the more restrictions, the cheaper the seat. But when there's a high demand for seats, sometimes the lowest price classes are eliminated since airlines know they can charge a little more because a lot of people want to fly to a particular destination.

The same principle works in reverse with low seat demand. Seats set at lower price that were previously unavailable can open up if an airline needs more people to fly to make a flight profitable. But don't expect this to guarantee you a cheap last-minute flight.

Basically it comes to demand: If you need a flight to say, sunny Mexico, more than the airline needs you to fill up a seat on the plane, expect a premium on last-minute tickets since the airline is banking on you willing to pony up a little extra to get to your destination on time. Data collected by CheapAir from 2013 also suggests the sweet spot to book a flight is way in advance — nearly two months ahead of time.

If you're flying domestic, book 54 days in advance and if you're travelling overseas, that sweet spot extends anywhere from 80 to 151 before departure. Now, if you're someone who doesn't have the luxury of booking flights four months in advance, check out the short-term tips below that any flyer can use to help keep costs low.

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