Never book flights on Fridays - and eight other tips for getting cheap air fares
If you are thinking of booking your next overseas holiday on a Friday, think again.
Friday is the most expensive day of the week to buy a plane ticket, according to new research, with flights on average 13pc dearer than if booked on a Sunday.
Customers have previously been advised to book plane tickets on a Tuesday because they were most likely to find a bargain. Airline executives were said to come into work on a Monday, look at the weekend sales and try to offload the remaining seats on Tuesday.
But according to Greg Schulze, senior vice president of global tour and transport with Expedia, things have now changed.
Airlines Reporting Corporation, the online travel agency which processes tickets booked through travel agencies, studied hundreds of millions of tickets bought in the last 12 months around the world to see the new trends.
Mr Schulze said that there was no clear single day to find the cheapest deal for all fights. However, when flying to most areas of the world, the cheapest tickets were sold on a Saturday or Sunday.
He added that the reason Fridays are so expensive is because airlines launch price hikes then and have already run out of cheap seats.
Airlines are now posting their best deals on weekends because they know that price-conscious consumers will grab them. At the weekend there are also no business travellers looking to get last minute fares which crowds the market.
“I personally would shop at the weekend and the beginning of the week and avoid Friday,” he said.
He added that the days of set airfares are few and far between and that airlines now regularly adjust flight costs up and down.
The research follows statistics from the International Air Transport Association, published last week, that showed how airfares have fallen year on year.
The American aviation data group also said that customers buying flights in Europe should plan to buy tickets 140 days in advance to get the best price, while those purchasing flights within the US should buy 57 days ahead of departure.
There have been numerous studies into when the best time to book a flight is, with thoughts ranging from as early as possible, to two weeks before, but Rick Seaney, chief executive of price comparison site Fare Compare, said booking too early can be costly.
“Airlines don’t start actively managing the price of seat on a particular flight until about three months before departure for domestic flights and five or six for international trips,” he said.
“That’s when price cutting typically begins.”
How to find the cheapest flights
1. Know who flies where
Most of your research is likely to be based around fares, but if you want a comprehensive overview of which airlines fly to and from the airports you are interested in, try flightmapping.com.
2. Head to the source
Most price-comparison sites will click you through to an airline’s site in any case, so if you start there, you will at least be sure that you are getting live, up-to-date fares.
3. Or go compare
Price-comparison websites are, in theory, the easiest way to find the cheapest fares. But they can also be misleading.
First, most do not list fares from every airline operating the route; second, they do not normally quote exact fares. This is because they are not quite up to date, because they can’t replicate the many preferences that an individual might have – to check in baggage, for example (see below) – and because they can’t reflect all the different booking fees that might be charged for using different credit or debit cards.
As I found with my spot-check, they can also be subject to technical hitches without the user realising. Even so, they are a useful guide, as long as you bear in mind the limitations and check at least two or three as part of your research.
4. Approach the agents
Sites like Expedia take the booking themselves – you don't click through on to the airline site as you do with the price-comparison sites above.
They can be useful – you can put together packages including hotels and hire cars that are financially protected, for example. But they normally charge a booking fee for flight-only arrangements, and it isn't always clear how much extra you are paying.
5. Fly off-peak
Midweek, outside the school holidays, at unsociable hours etc, and use filters on booking and price-comparison sites that allow you to search for cheaper fares on the days before and after your ideal date.
6. Take hand luggage only
Or book with an airline, such as BA, that doesn't charge extra for hold luggage. Be sure to measure and weigh all luggage – cabin and hold – before you leave home and make sure it is under the limit for your airline. Penalty charges for breaching the limits can be swingeing.
7. Watch for hidden extras
Some sites try to tempt you into booking insurance (which you may already have) and other extras (a new cabin bag, for example). Ryanair is the most aggressive at doing this, and you need to be careful to remove from the online booking form any extras you do not want.
8. Pay by debit card
It is usually cheaper – though you won't have the automatic financial protection against airline failure that you get if you book a fare of £100 or more with a credit card.