Is there a cheapest day to buy flights?
Brianna Mills, 19.04.18
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?!
What's the best day to buy flights?
- Is Tuesday the cheapest day? — Many people say that Tuesday is the best day to buy flights and will bag you the cheapest fares. However, this and other 'cheapest day to buy flights' rumours are the same as the internet's miracle quick fixes for weight loss and are often lazy shortcuts. Sure, buying flights on a Tuesday can sometimes get you cheaper flights. But there's absolutely no evidence that suggests that this is a consistent method.
- When you fly not buy — You're much better off putting time and effort into finding the flight you want and focussing on when you fly rather than when you buy. This makes it much more likely that you'll be rewarded with a good deal.
The top cheapest flight buying myths on the internet
Here's a few of the biggest cheap flight finder myths and some tips that actually will help you air fares to boast about, rather than aimlessly searching for the best day to buy flights.
The cheapest day to buy flights is 6 weeks before you go
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 me, the same company repeated the study 2 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.
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.
What this does prove is that there is such a thing as booking too early, especially for short-haul and domestic flights. So no need to panic buy your weekend breaks to far in advance!
The cheapest day to buy flights is Tuesday
As mentioned earlier, 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, I was curious with the internet's obsession with buying cheap flights on Tuesday so I 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:
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:
Expert tips for finding the cheapest flights
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 round trip from the UK to Japan? Yes, Please! $550 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. Not a quick fix, but 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 comes in. 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 cheaper flight tickets, 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 layover/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 them to have a an extra, bonus holiday. A stopover can simply be an alternative way to grab an extra adventure and visit more countries without the cost of another flight. For some tips on how to plan the perfect stopover click here.
The cheapest flight isn't always the best value
Most budget airlines don't include baggage in their initial flight price. If you are in need of purchasing some baggage, you might want to think about how much different airlines charge in baggage fees as well as how much they're charging for flights.
Another thing you should take into account when you find a cheap flight is what airport that flight goes to and from. Despite having a £10 return flight from London to Copenhagen a few years ago, it cost me £40 return to get the train I needed to catch that flight. Would I have been better off paying a standard £50 return and walking on the plane from the Alternative Airlines office (practically located on Gatwick runway), instead of dragging myself across London? Yes, yes I would. 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. Read more about the cheapest and best value airlines in the world on our blog here.
Hunt for offers
The cheapest day to buy flights may just be when you find the best deal!
Check travel and discount websites for sales and promotional fares. This may seem obvious but I often don't bother checking airline websites for flight discounts because I never find ones that apply to me. 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 though.
Potential 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, book as early as you can. 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 I 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.
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.
Updated: March 2019