The Real, Actual Best Time To Buy An Airplane Ticket

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by Paul Brady and Laura Dannen Redman, Condé Nast Traveler

David Noton Photography / Alamy

It's not necessarily Tuesday! A 2016 study by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation says there's a new optimal time to buy airplane tickets.

Travelers often swap theories on the right--and wrong--time to book a flight. We've heard it all: The lowest fares are on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. ET. (No, Wednesdays at 1 a.m.!) You need to book at least two months before you fly. (No, you should look for a deal and fly at the last minute!) Websites like Kayak suggest when you should buy, or if you should wait--like we're all trading stocks--but there's no guarantee. And according to George Hobica of AirfareWatchdog, "There is no secret time. You need to look four times a day--minimum--every day of the week, as far in advance as you can."

But a recent study by Expedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation reveals some new information about travel trends--and tricks we can use to get the best deal. Preparing for Takeoff: Air Travel Trends comes out once a year, and typically reinforces the notion that Tuesday is the best day of the week to buy an airplane ticket.

No more! After analyzing data regarding 10 billion (yes, billion) passenger flights from October 2014 and October 2015, the study concluded that weekends are also a prime time to get a discount on a flight. "Most analyses show low air ticket prices on weekend days because that's when many leisure travelers purchase tickets (and leisure tickets are much cheaper than business tickets)." Now, there's a caveat (isn't there always?): Airlines change their fares multiple times a day, so you never really know. But this is what we can likely count on for 2016:


"Between October 2014 and October 2015, global air ticket prices declined on average about 8 percent versus the prior year," said Preparing for Takeoff, making 2016 a "banner year" for travel.


Surprisingly, Europe. "In our data, the price of travel within Europe declined the most in that timeframe, making these routes some of the best potential bargains for 2016," said the report. Given the strength of the U.S. dollar to the euro (they're nearly comparable right now, with one euro = $1.09 USD), the exchange rate also makes a European vacation more palatable--and possible.



The ideal advance-purchase time for flights within North America (see savings of 10 percent).

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The ideal advance-purchase time for flights from North America to Asia-Pacific (see savings of 11 percent).

176 DAYS

The ideal advance-purchase time for flights from North America to Europe (see savings of 11 percent).

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