Cheapest Day to Buy Flights
written by Brianna Mills
Alternative Thrift Shop
Cheap flights. We've all Googled it. Whether it's a business trip, you're heading home to see family or you're off on your summer holidays, you want to know you're getting a good deal. And the internet is happy to help. The online world is cluttered with tips for thrifty air travellers, Alternative Airlines included. Blogs, articles and YouTube tutorials are all desperate to answer your questions: Is there a cheapest time to buy flights? Is there a cheapest day to buy flights? If I book flights during a solar eclipse while praying to Thor will I save some money on flights?!
Watch our minute long video to help you find your next cheap flight!
The top cheapest flight buying myths & questions
Before we dive into answering the question of 'is there a cheapest day to buy flights?', here are a few of the biggest cheap flight finder questions and myths debunked.
How far in advance should you book flights?
Passengers pay the lowest price, around 6% below the average fare, if they buy their tickets six weeks before their flight. That's the golden rule thousands of travel blogs and articles swear by.
It's taken from a study by the Airlines Reporting Corporation, a company that processes ticket transactions. That study was done in 2012. 2012 was the year of Gangnam Style. Things have changed since then.
If you don't believe us, the same company repeated the study two years later. In this report, it stated that the overall lowest average ticket price for domestic flights can be found 57 days in advance of departure. The lowest average ticket price of international flights was found to be 171 days before departure. In 2 years there had been a massive shift in what days were considered the cheapest to buy flights.
Trying to decide on the best day to book your flights can be a mission
Unfortunately, this cheap flight secret didn't make it into the golden rule of flight finding. It's not as catchy as the 6 week rule. It does show, however, how quickly these cheapest day to buy flight rules go out of fashion. In the world of cheap flight finding, if a study hasn't been done in the last 18 months, take it with a pinch of salt.
Do flights get cheaper closer to the date?
Perhaps what you can take away from the 6 week and 57 day rules is that there's such a thing as booking too early, especially for short-haul and domestic flights.
According to these two studies, along with many others on the internet, the cheapest time to buy flights is almost never when they're first released. This means that if you plan your weekend break months and months in advance just to save money on flights, you're wasting your time.
So, yes, flights do get cheaper as the date gets closer. But, be mindful that at some point, they will most likely will go back up.
Do airlines increase prices based on searches?
The idea behind this is that once you've searched for a flight on a travel or airline website, that website recognises that you're interested in that specific route and it will release a browser cookie that will increase the price the next time that you search for flights for the same route on the same website.
There have been many studies on this where people have ran multiple searches with and without cookies attached to their browser and compared the findings of each search. These studies have produced various results. Sometimes flight prices do increase, sometimes they don't. The one constant that appears in these studies is that on the cases where flight prices do increase, there's not enough consistency to attribute the price change to the cookies attached to the browser.
From our perspective, while we can't speak for other flight booking websites, we want to 100% assure that this isn't something that we do at Alternative Airlines. All of the prices we display are sourced from a live system, from which the price is determined by the airline itself.
Are flights cheaper on Tuesdays?
According to the internet, the best day of the week to buy flights is a Tuesday. Apparently, this is due to airlines announcing deals on Monday evenings. By Tuesday at noon, other airlines are trying to match those deals. So Tuesday afternoons are the best time to hunt for reduced airfare.
The first problem with this is that Tuesday afternoon varies depending where in the world you are. Your Tuesday afternoon may be different to the person who's produced this statistic.
The second problem is that it really doesn't hold up. While it’s often cheaper to fly on Tuesdays to Thursdays, airlines do not lower their fares for those who buy tickets on those days of the week. The window changes dramatically depending on where you are traveling and when. That said, we were curious with the internet's obsession with buying cheap flights on Tuesday so we decided to have a look at some Alternative Airlines facts and figures to see if there was a best day to buy flights according to our customers:
Alternative Airlines cheap flight facts
- People pay less on Thursday and Friday — As you can see on the chart below, people on average pay less per flight booking on Thursdays and Fridays. It would appear that people spend more booking on Saturdays and Sundays than other times of the week.
- Consider the different variables — Although less is spent on Thursdays and Fridays, the statistics are pretty flexible. For example, it may be that people just book flights for more passengers at the weekend, or are more inspired to book flights to long-haul destinations. There are so many variables to think about you can't rely on booking flights on a certain day to get the cheapest deal:
The average amount our customers spend when flying abroad from the UK on different days of the week, in GBP
What's the best day to buy flights?
So, if Tuesday isn't the best day to buy flights and the data to suggest that Thursday and Friday as the best day isn't solid enough. When is the best day to buy flights?
In reality, there isn't one. Honestly, you're much better off putting time and effort into finding the flight that you want and focussing on when you fly rather than when you buy. Whether you buy a flight for when the destination that you're travelling to is out of season or you decide to fly mid-week instead of over the weekend, buying your flights at off-peak times is the most sure-fire way to get yourself rewarded with a good deal.
Tips for finding the cheapest flights
Now that it's established that there isn't a cheapest day or time to find flights. Check out our handy tips that give you other ways to find cheap airfare.
If you know how much flights SHOULD be, You'll know when you're getting a good deal. If you keep searching for flights, you'll get an idea of what's a rip-off and what's an absolute steal. $550 USD round trip from the UK to Japan? Yes, please! $550 USD round trip from the UK to India? Hmm, you can probably do better. Once you've done a few searches on a search engine like ours, you'll start to see how prices change and know when you've stumbled across a good deal. It's not a quick fix, but it's definitely an effective one.
You can't expect the cheap flights to appear exactly when you want them. This is where tools like Alternative Airline's Best Fare Finder come in handy. Our Best Fare Finder tells you how much you could save by slightly altering your dates of travel and allows you to see the cheapest time to fly across a week from your original search.
You can also benefit from being flexible in the way you pay and choose to buy flights on finance. Companies like PayPal Credit, Affirm and Klarna allow you to spread the cost of your flights over time. You may not be getting a cheaper flight ticket, but you have more flexibility in your monthly spending, which makes it more affordable.
Take advantage of a long layover
Often, buying a flight with a very long stopover is cheaper than a regular return. Many people avoid these because they think it has to mean wasting time hanging about a boring airport somewhere. But it doesn't have to be that way — you can use the time to have a an extra, bonus holiday. A stopover can simply be an alternative way to grab an extra adventure and visit more cities without the cost of another flight. Check out our blong that gives tips on how to plan the perfect stopover click.
The cheapest flight isn't always the best value
Most budget airlines don't include baggage in their initial flight price. If you need checked baggage, you should compare the total price of both flights, including extra baggage and other amenities, instead of just looking at the base fare of the ticket.
Another thing you should take into account when you find a cheap flight is the airport that the flight arrives and departs from. As an example, the price of a flight to Copenhagen (CPG) from London Stansted (STN) might be cheaper than the same flight from London Gatwick (LGW). But, if you're located nearer to Gatwick than you are to Stansted (like Alternative Airlines' head offices are), then you're likely to spend more on travelling to the airport than you save by travelling from the cheaper (but further away) airport.
Know your airports, and the prices of getting to and from those airports and you may save yourself far more money than if you book your flight on a certain day.
Hunt for offers
The cheapest day to buy flights may just be whichever day you happen to find the best deal!
Check travel and discount websites for sales and promotional fares. This may seem obvious but many people don't bother checking airline websites for flight discounts because it can be difficult to find ones that work. Each discount is so specific that it's difficult to understand how anyone can cash in on the deals!
However, if you look for offers on travel agency and online discount websites, you're more likely to find a general 'money off your purchase' sale. There are loads of voucher websites out there though, PayPal puts on some great discount codes and so does Groupon. It's worth checking through as many as you have time for.
The real cheapest days to buy flights
There's a good chance that the REAL cheapest day to buy flights is actually on 'special offers' days. Keeping an eye on when these kinds of 'special offer days' are may help you find some excellent deals! Days to watch out for include:
- Black Friday — Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving where retailers go mad and slash all their prices. Keeping an eye on when these kinds of "special offer days" are may help you find some excellent deals! Find offers using the Alternative Airlines Black Friday discount codes or check out advice on getting the cheapest Black Friday flights in our Black Friday blog.
- Cyber Monday — The monday after Thanksgiving. All offers from Black Friday usually continue or are updated with a different deal. This is tradionally for online retail and services.
- Boxing Day — Boxing Day is a public holiday on the 26th December that originates from the UK. It's not celebrated all over the world, but it does mark the start of the post-Christmas sales that are enjoyed take place worldwide. The 26th is when most retailers and travel companies announce their big offers.
- Small business Saturday — The Saturday after Thanksgiving. While the big retailers make all the noise on Black Friday, smaller businesses traditionally put their offers on the Saturday, the day after. This is no different in travel. So, keep your out for smaller airlines and travel agencies offering discounts the day after Black Friday.
When you go makes a much bigger difference than when you buy your flights
If you know you have to travel at a busy time of year, keep an eye on what's going on, at both where you are and where you want to fly to. If you're in the UK, you may think you're avoiding the summer holiday rush by booking your holidays for early June. The thing is, if you're flying around the USA, American schools are already on holiday then, driving up air fares.
Flight prices don't just depend on where you are, but where you're going. If there's a sporting event or festival in the country that you wish to travel to, you're going to pay more to travel there whether you're attending the event or not.
If you know you are going to travel off-peak, you can, if you want, relax and leave your booking until a month or two before departure. Like we said, if the internet has got one thing right, it's that cheap flights are not just about how far in advance you book them. Also be sure to check the dates of low season in your destination to get the best deal.
According to a recent Farecompare.com study, the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday. According to the Jack's Flight Club quote above, it's Tuesday or Thursday. I think it's safe to say in general it's cheaper to fly on a weekday or a Saturday. Why? Because it's slightly inconvenient.
The early bird catches the worm
Speaking of inconvenience, the pattern continues. Early flights/flights at awkward times are on average cheaper. For example, consider taking a red eye flight. Normally, the less convenient something is, the cheaper it is.
First Published: 19/04/18
Updated: January 2020