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Budget Travel

When Do Flight Prices Drop? Take Advantage of Fluctuating Airfare


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What is in this blog? Table of contents:

Now more than ever we’re all on the hunt for cheap airfare.

In our often never ending quest to find the perfect deal on our holiday booking, it’s understandable to want to try and game the system, to try to figure out when exactly airfare prices are cheapest.

No one wants to start their holiday feeling they’ve been ripped off right?

Honestly, the question of “How often do flight prices change?” and its sister question of “When do flight prices change?” aren’t as simple as they might initially seem.

Read on to find out why there’s no clear answer to these questions and why there’s still a lot you can do to help get that cheap flight you’re hunting for.

How often do flight prices change?

To be blunt, flight prices change constantly. There’s no real answer to the question of “How often do flight prices change?” nor is there any magic trick to guarantee you the lowest price on that one particular flight you’ve been eyeing up.

Anything is possible in the circus of horrors that is airline flight pricing algorithms.

This said, there are factors that affect why a flight price may change. Understanding a few of these may, at the very least, help you understand the myriad of factors leading to the frequency of flight price changes.

Competition between other airlines

Airlines keep tabs on their competitors. They need to ensure their prices are competitive and match the market rate so that their tickets actually sell or conversely, they aren’t selling their tickets too cheaply.

So, if one airline raises their prices for a specific destination there’s a good chance its competitors will too, and of course vice-versa.

Changes in demand for various destinations

Demand for various destinations and routes fluctuates throughout the year. Airline ticket prices will fluctuate in conjunction with these changes in demand.

For example, expect flight prices to rise during the summer holidays when kids are off school.

This works in the reverse as well. If a certain route isn’t seeing many ticket sales the prices will likely drop to increase the likelihood of tickets being bought.

Fuel prices

This last one’s pretty clear-cut - if fuel prices increase ticket prices increase.

Why should airlines worth millions (often billions) have to shoulder the price of fuel increases when they can just pass these increases on to the powerless consumer instead?

When do flight prices change?

The subject of when flight prices change is open to debate. Now that airline ticket pricing is largely done by algorithms it’s hard to tell when they actually change. Saying this, there are certain things worth keeping in mind when considering when flight prices change.

Real-time adjustments

The algorithms I just mentioned make real-time adjustments to flight prices based on demand, availability and various other market conditions. As a result, flight prices can and will change at any time. On frequently flown routes, flight prices fluctuate several times a day.

Do flight prices change on Tuesdays?

Many believe airfares are updated/discounted on Tuesdays. It’s unclear whether this is actually true though. While a multitude of sources claim Tuesday is the day when flight prices change, there are plenty of other sources claiming this is at best an outdated notion or at worst an urban legend.

That’s not to say you won’t find great deals on Tuesdays, nor is it to say that Tuesday isn’t the best day for booking flights. It just means your amazing deal could simply be based on the real-time adjustments discussed above rather than on your savvy decision to book on Tuesday. We talked about the cheapest days to fly here.

Midnight updates

Outside of real-time updates, airfare prices frequently change at midnight in the local timezone of the airline in question.

This is great to know if you’re looking to monitor the prices of a route with a particular airline. Although, instead of doing that it might be easier to set up a flight alert (more on that later).

How often do flight prices drop?

I know I said airfares change constantly. I also said it was mostly based on real-time adjustments.

Yet despite these real-time changes making things somewhat tricky to know exactly when flight prices will change. There are some ways to predict when flight prices will actively drop rather than simply change.

Here are a few instances when you can expect flight prices to be lower than average:

Earlier is best for peak seasons

If you’re looking to travel along a popular route during a peak season (say you’re going to southern Spain from the UK in August) the earlier you book the better.

In this case, the chances are there will be no significant price drop (of course it’s never impossible though, just unlikely). Rather than dropping, prices will probably only increase the closer you get to your planned departure date. So it’s best to book ASAP!

Flight schedules are normally released 11 months ahead of time. This means the super organised of you can snag a reasonably priced flight without faffing around waiting for price drops that probably won’t happen anyway.

Otherwise book 6-8 weeks in advance

As a general rule, outside of peak seasons, expect flight prices to noticeably drop in the two months building up to departure. This is a pretty variable outline, with significant price drops also reported up to four months in advance and sometimes down to a month in advance.

Overall though, if you aim for somewhere in the 6-8 week margin you should be pretty happy with the price you get.

Keep your eyes peeled for sales & deals

Flight prices drop when airlines have a sale. Everyone knows that right?

Lucky for you, airlines are constantly launching sales and offering discounts - I’ve had three emails about sales in the past week alone. If you’ve flown with an airline before the chances are you’re already on their mailing list and you’ll get emails notifying you of any sales. Otherwise, it could be a good idea to sign-up for the mailing lists of airlines you fly with regularly so that you can pounce on those discounts as soon as they’re offered.

A word to the wise though, some airlines offer “huge” discounts on airfare that looks great on the surface. However, when you come to book said flights, various added taxes and extra costs like baggage could make these flights just as expensive as an ordinary one.

Can you get cheaper flights from a Travel Agent?

Travel agents have access to special deals, discounts, etc… that aren’t available to an ordinary person. In addition, their expertise in the industry and the special relationships they have with airlines give them a level of negotiating power that you just won’t have.

As a result, travel agent flight prices can potentially be cheaper than those you might find online. On the flip side, certain aspects of using a travel agent can easily cancel out any savings you might otherwise find.

First, there’re various extra fees and commissions they’ll be charging - which can mount up.

Second, when you use a travel agent you lose the independence you have when booking online. Here I’m talking about the ability to compare flight prices yourself and choose the cheapest one available. Something a travel agent may not do for you.

There’s always the possibility that an unscrupulous travel agent will put you on the flight that garners them the most commission instead of the one that’s cheapest for you. So as with a number of other questions we’re covering today, there’s no clear answer. It almost entirely depends on how good your travel agent is.

How can I save money on airfare?

There are plenty of ways to save money on airfare, so many ways it deserves a whole article of its own. Although, there are a few things you can do to save money when booking flights that I feel are always worth mentioning:

First, never book a flight last minute - the prices will most likely be sky-high.

Second, don’t always take direct flights, check if your destination has cheaper routes that involve connecting flights.

Finally, if you don’t need to book immediately consider tracking your flight prices so you can pick them up when there’s a noticeable price drop. Read out top 10 tips for booking cheap flights for a more in-depth look on how to save money on airfare.

Is it possible to track flight prices?

I’ve mentioned this idea a couple of times above and I want to go into a little more detail on how to track flight prices.

Many websites that allow you to search for flights from multiple airlines, Google Flights being a prime example, also allow you to track flight prices on either entire routes or simply individual flights you’ve searched.

Enabling flight tracking is super easy, all it takes is a simple click. The option should be clearly visible on your screen when looking at the results for flights you’ve searched. Once activated you’ll receive emails regarding flight price changes. If you want to search for flights right now click here.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, after reading this, it’s a little clearer why there’s no clear answer to the question of “How often do flight prices drop” - as you can see the factors that contribute to changing airfares are pretty complex.

In spite of this complexity, I hope there are at least some useful titbits here you can carry forward to help you find cheap airfare soon.

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