The Best Time and Time of Day to Book Airline Tickets
If you're looking for a deal on airfare, common wisdom is to book early and be flexible with your dates. While flexibility is good, the advance part may cost you money. Peter Greenberg, CBS News' travel editor, shared some of his tips to save money and avoid costly mistakes when booking airfare.
We've talked about how you should book eight weeks in advance
The number one mistake I see most travelers make is to book too early. Unless you are planning travel for high-traffic days, like Christmas or July 4, you stand the best chance for the lowest possible fare 45 days out for domestic travel and 60 days out for international.
Outside of that 45-day window most airline computers aren't programmed to give you any kind of a deal. It's all about computer modeling-the airline knows, for example, how many people flew on Flight 405 to Cleveland last February, and in February of 2012 as well. They make their projections of the load for this February based on that.
If you book too far in advance, you'll almost always pay a higher fare, and then, if the prices later drop, you can't take advantage of the lower price without incurring the standard change fee-which will easily erase any possible savings.
He notes that being flexible with your flight time and date is probably the next biggest way to score a discount-if you're set on flying on a specific day, you're locked into whatever prices you can get. If you can wiggle around a bit, fly in early or a day later, you have more room-especially if you can fly midweek, which is almost always the cheapest (and least crowded) flights you can get.
As for the best time of day to get a bargain, he suggest Wednesday morning at 1AM. Here's why:
Now that I've narrowed down when I want to travel, I follow a few time-tested rule about when to book. There is a specific time if you want to get inexpensive flights.
Buy your ticket on Wednesday at 1 am, just one hour after Tuesday midnight. But remember, that's midnight in the time zone where the airline is based (know when to call for all US airlines). Why Tuesday? Most low airfares seem to appear between Sunday night and Monday night. And then, when people book those fares, they have 24 hours in which to purchase them. At midnight Tuesday, all the discount fares that weren't purchased come flooding back into the airline's computer systems. And that's when you strike.
You can't do this online...You need to have a conversation with a human being at the airline. It's also how you book the best economy seats without paying extra.
This is similar to our advice that you should start your airfare shopping on Tuesdays
Photo by mroach.