Is there a cheapest day to buy flights?
Brianna Mills, 19.04.18
Alternative Thrift Shop: 12 min read
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????
Let me stop you right there:
There's no cheapest day to buy flights
The "cheapest day to buy flights" rumours are just the same as the internet's miracle quick fixes for weight loss. They're lazy shortcuts. Yes they can sometimes get you results. But if you put time and effort into finding the flight you want, you're more likely to be rewarded with a good deal.
That doesn't mean there isn't some truth to these rumours, however. 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 top cheapest flight buying myths on the internet:
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
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:
Alternative Airlines' Cheap Flight Facts
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. However, 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.
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.
Hunt for offers
Check travel and airline websites for sales and promotional fares. This may seem obvious but I often don't bother checking websites for flight discounts because I never find ones that apply to me. They can be so specific that I don't know how anyone can cash in on the deals! But 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. Our favourites are PayPal Offers because they have loads of travel deals that change regularly. But, then again, we are a little bit obsessed with buying flights with PayPal. (for good reason!) There are loads of alternative voucher websites out there though, so if PayPal isn't your thing, you can try Groupon or other voucher websites. So, the cheapest day to buy flights may just be when you find the best deal!
While we're talking offers, there's a good chance that the REAL cheapest day to buy flights is actually a famous "special offers" days. The rest of the world is slowly waking up to the potentional of such massive discount events like America's Black Friday extravaganza. Black Friday is the day after Thankdgiving 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! Potential days to watch out for include:
Potential cheapest days to buy flights
Black Friday The day after Thanksgiving. 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
Boxing Day - 26th December
Small business Saturday - Saturday after Thanksgiving
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.
That's the true secret to finding the cheapest flights. There's no cheapest day to buy flights, and, if there were, it wouldn't stay the cheapest day for long!
Updated: July 2018