How Far In Advance Should Flights Be Booked?

Who doesn’t love a bargain? If you know that you’re going to be booking flights and have the dates set that only leaves one more question – when is the best time to book?

Luckily, we have the answer – even if we can’t quite be as specific as ‘book at midnight on a Tuesday (which was the advice back in the day).

Book early – within reason

A common misconception is that the earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets. While booking early will certainly be cheaper than grabbing tickets at the last minute, that isn’t to say there is a nice uniform scale, whereby the price is getting slightly more expensive as you get ever closer to departure day.

From the moment seats are released, prices can fluctuate, up some weeks, down others – this makes it nigh on impossible to be certain which price will be the cheapest, although this is undoubtedly what airlines are aiming for. If tickets started off at the cheapest price, everyone wold book then and profits would be slightly lower than might otherwise be achieved.

When we say within reason, we mean that for international flights you should be looking to book at least three months in advance if possible. After this, prices are unlikely to ever be as low as the deals available further out.

For domestic flights, booking early can mean just one month prior to take off.

However, it’s not quite that simple…

How popular will the flights be?

If demand is certain to be high, the scale moves further towards booking early. An example would be summer holiday flights to popular tourist destinations. A flight to Mallorca, for instance, from a major UK airport at a convenient time in August will be popular and seats are likely to be bought quickly as people look to finalise the details of next year’s holiday.

For this sort of flight, seats are likely to be released 320 to 340 days in advance and booking as soon as they are available might be wise. There is a slim chance the price will come down a little, but a greater chance it will rise significantly – is that a gamble you want to take?

Alternatively, a business flight to a less popular destination won’t see the same high initial demand for tickets and so the better deals might come a bit later.

The same theory applies to domestic flights, although there will be fewer domestic flights that get that initial surge of holiday booking. That said, city breaks can be popular in holidays so a flight from, for example, Liverpool to Belfast in the holidays would have a different pattern of demand to a daily commuter flight from London to Manchester. For the Liverpool to Belfast example it would be prudent to book early.

If Seats Haven’t Sold, Will They Go Cheap?

If ticket prices are based on supply and demand you might expect that to mean that any unsold tickets will go cheaply. To use an analogy, it is like a supermarket that has over-ordered fruit and veg, when it gets close to the best before date those packets of grapes are going to sell at a fraction of their usual price.

If the same applied to flights it would be great – better even than cheap fruit (less mould to worry about).

Sadly, this is rarely the case. The fact you are booking late is more likely to mean you really need to make that trip and are willing to pay a bit extra, knowing this the price will be higher. 

Airlines don’t work on the basis of getting whatever they can for a seat, instead they are willing to leave with a few seats unoccupied knowing that anyone that did book last minute has paid a hefty sum for the privilege.

Cheapest vs A Price You’re Happy With

If you approach booking tickets as a game with the aim of getting them at their very cheapest level you are likely to be disappointed. You might book at what seems a good price and then see them from slightly a couple of weeks later.

Alternatively, you might keep waiting for a great deal that never comes.

What is far more important is to get the tickets at a price you are happy with.

This involves doing a little research to see a range of typical prices and also comparing airlines, departure airports (where applicable) and times of day. If, armed with this information, you see tickets that appear a good deal or a fair price then why not buy them? Rates might go down a little, they might not but either way you have secured your tickets at a price you are happy with.

It is human nature to have regret and feel annoyed if you then find you could have saved even more money – however, it’s also human nature to feel far more annoyed if you consider buying tickets, decide against it, and then later on book tickets for the same flight at far greater expense.

One More Tip To Save Money

At Flight Reclaim, we are a company that hopefully you will never need to contact – we are a company to get in touch with if things go wrong.

Unfortunately, things do go wrong. Flights get cancelled, passengers get bumped from busy flights, there are regular delays and disruptions.

We help passengers get the compensation they are entitled to – this on a no win, no fee basis and with a 98% success rate.

If you have suffered flight disruption any time in the past six years, get in touch to see if you’re entitled to claim. You can call us on 0161 883 2662 or use our claim form.

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