Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

When to buy tickets for flights?

  1. Jul 28, 2011 #1

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    So when I move to atlanta, I have basically found out that I'll be able to fly out to various places at amazingly cheap prices ($80 to philidelphia non-stop? $120 to where I live in california??). The thing is, obviously the price you pay depends on when you book. When I select a flight in 3 weeks, it's $$$. When I select a flight 2 or 3 months down the road, it's super cheap. However, if I select a flight 6-7 months down the road, it starts becoming expensive. Not nearly as much as a flight in 2-3 weeks, but at least 25-50% higher than the cheap rate.

    Does anyone know how this stuff all kinda works? Is there really a "good time" to buy tickets?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2011 #2

    micromass

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Just buy a private plane...
     
  4. Jul 28, 2011 #3

    Office_Shredder

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    if you go on bing it will tell you whether prices are going up or down for different departure dates (ex. type flight miami to la)
     
  5. Jul 28, 2011 #4

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    They look like they're for flights happening very soon. Those prices are the outrageous ones it looks like.
     
  6. Jul 28, 2011 #5

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It depends, sometimes you can get a cheap flight that's under booked 2 weeks in advance of what you paid 3 months ago. I've had ticket prices double in one day and I've had them cut in half one day.

    It's a crap shoot. Some travel agencies offer you a best price guarantee, but overall, you'll pay them more since their average prices are higher than dealing directly with the airline.

    I usually look at the travel sites to get flight information, then go directly to the airline to make my final purchase. I usually get a better deal that way. Same with hotels, I've never booked through an agent to get the best price, but I take advantage of their search engines. If you're willing to take a few more minutes, you can save quite a bit. The airlines and hotels make more if they have you buy direct and they're willing to give part of that to you.
     
  7. Jul 28, 2011 #6
    Penguins can't fly!
     
  8. Jul 28, 2011 #7

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    rawr
     
  9. Jul 29, 2011 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Airlines have a department called "inventory management" that tries to maximize revenue by optimally setting prices. They expect to have sold xx% of seats 2 months before the flight, yy% one month before, zz% one week before, etc. If they find that they are selling fewer seats than their curve would like, prices will drop. (And if they are selling more, prices will go up.) What matters most is not the exact time, but where the airline is at that time relative to its expectations.

    That said, the best prices I have ever found were for travel the following day. Also, the worst prices I have ever found were for travel the following day.
     
  10. Jul 29, 2011 #9

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I've had the same experience as expressed by Evo and Vanadium. I try to get cheap tickets, but on my schedule, not one that discount sites set, through the airlines directly. Pricing depends on demand, airport of origin (departure) and airport of destination.

    I've also had circumstances where it was cheaper to fly business class to UK than coach, so I flew business class.
     
  11. Jul 29, 2011 #10

    Ryan_m_b

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I've always had a mixed bag with flying, sometimes I've booked months in advance to get it cheap, other times it's expensive. Some times buying the night before can be very cheap. I think Vanadium's answer is great at showing how you can't really know, it's not like the airlines are going to tell you "**** we should have sold 20% but we've sold 10% half the price!"

    Last summer I was trying to book a Eurostar from London - Brussels the day before, I only had my iphone so was trying to book the tickets on a small screen with crap internet before my lunch break ended. Ticket price was £100 (~$160) but I didn't finish it in time and had to get back to work. An hour later I had a few minutes to spare only to see the price had jumped to £140 (~$225) in that hour!!! Travel is frustrating.
     
  12. Jul 29, 2011 #11
    Buy BEFORE holidays, never ever ever ever ever ever EVER buy on Christmas or a close to summer.

    I usually buy mine a few weeks before Fall.

    But pigs can!
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2011
  13. Jul 29, 2011 #12

    Disconnected

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    My sister was buying some bus tickets for myself and her to go to our parent's house. She had to get them for me since my internet was down. She bought her's on her card for 6 pounds, then went through with my card, with me giving her the details over the phone, and found that the tickets were now 8 pounds. I gave her some detail wrong so she just went back to the start again and re-booked the tickets. They were 27 quid! WTH?
     
  14. Jul 29, 2011 #13

    Office_Shredder

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member


    If you click on the find flights button after picking your specific dates, it will look on a couple sites for flights and then recommend whether you should buy now or later depending on how prices are trending
     
  15. Jul 29, 2011 #14

    Hepth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    When I hear this i can only think of:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  16. Jul 29, 2011 #15

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    F this. No compooter is going to tell me how to spend my monies!!!

    Actually I wish I knew how to do cool computer things. I would have a program query expedia for purchasing tickets for every day up to a year later and see if there's any global trend going on.
     
  17. Jul 29, 2011 #16

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    If you're planning to fly to a city with a large University near the start of school, you might want to buy early.
     
  18. Jul 29, 2011 #17

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Atlanta was always a problem for me. Since it is a hub, the prices can be very high from Maine. Perversely, instead of flying into Atlanta ($800-1000 or so RT), I could board another plane and fly on to Talahassee for about ($250 total RT) then rent a car and drive back to my clients in south GA.
     
  19. Jul 29, 2011 #18

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I reckon the best time to buy is something between 6 and 8 weeks before the departure date. Of course, airline pricing models are pretty complex (as others have mentioned), which I guess depends mostly on demand.

    Presumably that's with someone like national express. These companies have a number of very cheap advance tickets, but once they are sold out the prices revert to the usual prices. The same can be said for train tickets too.
     
  20. Jul 29, 2011 #19

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I have a feeling the only way to really get a good deal without knowing exactly how the system they utilize works is to simply look at a lot of data and get an idea of how low a price can go. So for example I see that from atlanta to philidelphia, the price could get as low as $80 and as much as $600. As long as I don't find out that I'm actually going to go there just a few weeks ahead of time, I can watch the prices and wait until the price drops to around the $80 mark so I know that maybe I'm not getting the best deal, but I'm getting a price near the bottom.
     
  21. Jul 29, 2011 #20

    micromass

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Well, according to the secretary problem, you'll need to start n days before the deadline. You don't buy any tickets until day n/e, and from day n/e onwards you buy a ticket that was cheaper than all the rest. This will guarantee you the best ticket in 37% of the cases!!!!
    Isn't math cool?? :biggrin:
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook