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When is the Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets?

Updated on November 9, 2011

When is the Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets?

If I decide to go somewhere on Monday, I'll be on a flight out on Friday. And I'll have paid very very little. That's because I know how, and more importantly when, to buy airline tickets. While many others deride these kinds of tips, and simply say that airline companies sell tickets at the highest prices they can get, I found a way by accident.

Every airline company uses an Airline Reservation System (ARS - a rather unfortunate acronym) in order to manage its seats and ticket sales. This system defines and updates prices on a regular basis - usually a few times a day. Every now and then - usually once a week or so, this system needs to cleared up and generally updated. Right after this, prices are usually at their lowest point.

Tools I Use

Your flight search can be made significantly easier if you use a website that searches many airlines at once. Ideally, it should have options regarding arrival and departure times, layovers, and so forth. The site I prefer to use for all this is - it offers all of these, and has nice ipad and iphone/ipod touch applications which make your life easier. If you sign up, they also have various notifications and a nice currency system, and they seem not to send me spam. Either that, or my spam filter suddenly and very mysteriously became much better than I thought - unlikely.

If you use this tool on a regular basis, you'll see that flight prices fluctuate wildly, even during a single day. Make up your own mind on when to buy, or read on. (Also, if you use a better tool, let me know in the comments!)

Best Time to Buy

The discovery I made, quite by accident, was the best time to buy. This is regardless of whether you're booking well in advance (which is advisable in any case) or during that week. I can't help you if you're booking on that day, however - the best tip in that case is simply to go to the airport and see if there are any tickets for your destination going at rock-bottom rates. Airlines will do this as a last-ditch measure to fill seats. For me, that's not really an acceptable option, as I'm not always visiting people that'll necessarily appreciate me showing up at their doorstep and saying "hey, I'm staying for 3 days!" Of course, if you have that choice, go for it, and good luck to you.

If you'd like to book that week, then the absolute best time to buy is at 1:00 AM EST on Tuesday morning (6:00 AM GMT). This seems to be just after the moment the Airline Reservation Systems are updated or reset, and the prices are at a very low point. I'm not asking you to take this at face value, of course. Try it yourself - and try it for a few weeks. If you follow the price trends, you'll see very quickly that this seems to be the case.

I hope I was able to answer the question when is the best time to buy airline tickets, and that you were able to find some decent tickets. Safe travels!


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    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Interesting! Somewhere in one of the travel magazines that I've read, it says Wednesday by midnight (EST) is when the cost of tickets would drop and rise back again for weekend schedules. Makes you think, eh?

      Good to know. Thank you.

    • Lisas-thoughts101 profile image

      Lisas-thoughts101 6 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Coeus, I didn't know this voted up and useful thanks.


    • rlaha profile image

      rlaha 6 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

      This is great information, some of it unknown to me before! Thanks!

    • profile image

      skymaster 6 years ago

      Really good. From experience the best time is about a month earlier...Best prices Best offers best availability.