Some people wait for the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau or the start of baseball season. But for this travel writer, the day the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) puts out its trends report is one of the best days of the year. That’s because the report, prepared in tandem with Expedia for the last four years, is a bouquet of helpful airfare tips based on granite-solid data.
The Airline Reporting Corporation, you see, has the largest database of ticketing information on the planet. It serves as a middle man between travel agencies, online ticket sellers, and some 400 airlines. That means it handles some $500 billion in air tickets annually. Every December, it analyzes patterns in those transactions and how those patterns shift year-to-year.
Last year, for example, the ARC found that, statistically, those who booked their tickets on Saturdays and Sundays paid the least amount of money for them. This year, though, the best prices appeared on Sunday. Why? The guess is that corporate travel agents don’t work weekends, and especially don’t work on Sundays, so the airlines drop their prices on that day to try and entice more cost-conscious leisure travelers.
When is the most expensive day of the week to book fares? That would be Fridays (at least this year).
In addition, how far in advance one books makes a difference. Airfares—domestic and international, economy and premium—are cheaper if bought 30 days out. The vast majority continue to drop in price the further out one books, though in some regions, fares can spike up at certain times in the cycle, after 30 days.
Some other nuggets:
- Thursday and Friday flights yield the lowest average price per ticket on international economy tickets. For domestic flights, the results varied too widely to name a cheapest flight day.
- Fridays and Saturdays are the days to depart if you want to snag international premium seats (i.e. business or first class) for less. The cost difference, weekend vs. weekday, ranged from 9% to 43%.
- February is the cheapest month for international flights originating in either the United States or Canada. The most expensive month is December for the U.S. market and July for Canada—not a surprise since that's when big annual holidays always fall.
- September is the least expensive month for domestic flights in the United States; May is the month to travel within Canada. The months to avoid, sticker-shock-wise? June in the United States and August in Canada.
And what were the average savings for people who booked or flew at the right time? The figures varied widely, but all were greater than 15%—so it pays off to take the tips that come out of this gigantic, number-crunching report.