Apr 15, 2012 7:14 AM GMT
Some tips on buying plane tickets - the further out, the cheaper it might be.
Recent fare analysis by the Airlines Reporting Corporation seems to challenge the conventional wisdom that the earlier you book, the less expensive your fare will be. In January, the corporation, which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies, reported that over the past four years passengers paid the lowest price for domestic flights when buying just about six weeks in advance.
To determine if that six-week sweet spot would hold true for international routes, I asked the company to analyze fares for several trips, like a summer vacation to Europe and a winter escape in the Caribbean.
Not only did the six-week period fail to stand up, but the findings indicate that the window for booking the cheapest ticket for these trips has increased over the past three years; in some cases it’s up to 24 weeks.
“Consumers have been getting the best prices a bit further out year over year,” said Chuck Thackston, managing director of data and analytics at the Airlines Reporting Corporation.
Sure, it’s possible that if travelers pull back on spending, airlines will be forced to cut prices, allowing travelers to nab a cheap summer flight to, say, Barcelona, as little as three weeks out.
“If they don’t see bookings materialize the way they’d like, they will put the route on sale,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.
But Mr. Harteveldt and other travel watchers agree that booking well in advance is a safe bet. So far this year, airlines have raised rates three times, said Rick Seaney, chief executive of Farecompare.com, which tracks ticket prices. “I think pricing is going to be crazy,” particularly this summer, he said.
So if you place stock in historical trends, the message is clear: act now.