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When to buy plane tickets

Okay I have been hearing for years that there is a certain lead time that is ideal for getting the best rates. I generally purchase 90 days in advance when I can. But I bet you guys have better recommendations.

Posted by
2081 posts

james, i am assuming your mean "international" flights right? i dont go by anyones rule of thumb (ROT) yet since i havent found one to be true for me. I will book my flights as soon as i know im going. Chances are i will have other reservations and such already paid for so that missing that flight over there would be a big stupid attack if i did. your mileage may vary.... happy trails.

Posted by
16956 posts

Hah! Guess again. The airline supercomputers are way ahead of us. All I can say is set up a price alert and watch and wait. When it gets to a price you can live with, jump on it. They disappear in a day.

Posted by
14175 posts

I go to Europe 3 times a year and I have been hearing for a decade about every scheme to get the best fare but I have never paid much attention. I have so many self imposed rules that I doubt I would benefit. Rules like 2 hour layovers, no changes at JFK or Chucky D. I can and do generally check a few days before and after for better rates but that's as far as complex as I have gotten in the process. I just thought I would do a reality check.

Posted by
2081 posts

James, since you have the opportunity to go over there 3x/year, i would think you would be able to find the magic Rule of Thumb (ROT) for us. Im only able to make it there 1x/year so my chances to experiment are limited. A co worker is from Glasgow Scotland and he was able to find 2x so far R/T tickets to Glasgow/Edinburg via AMS to PDX for < 900 USD. The catch..... both flights in December. I paid ~1200 USD last year for R/T to AMS and this year was closer to ~1300 USD. the first time was in March, the last time was in sept. I like NS flights as much as possible so i will pay a little more for that. I monitored my flight prices weekly until i left this year and the price stayed within +/- 200 until the week before i left and went up to 3+k. happy trails.

Posted by
14175 posts

I generally book pretty early so I can get the flight and seats that I want. I haven't been able to detect any great theory as to when to buy. I was just curious if all these years I had been overlooking something. Especially the last couple of years as the prices have gone up quite a bit. I cant remember the last time I was pleased with the cost of a ticket.

Posted by
2081 posts

James, if you look at the price breakdown, the "cost" of the ticket itself isnt bad, its the nickle and dime of everyone wanting their piece of the pie that screws and jacks the cost up. even the airlines adding fees like, fuel tax is total BS. its just like the banks calling their own shots and adding fees just to make more $$$. happy trails.

Posted by
9110 posts

The suckers are computer-generated with maybe only a slight human tweak to semi-match the competition. Since fuel prices, other than traveler demand, are the primary variable, I used to think there was a correlation to petroleum futures - - using pork belly guesses would have worked about as well. If you don't care where you go, you can watch different parts of the world and snag when you see a dip - - then noodle out what to do when you get there before you leave. Often this makes Asia or Africa cheaper than Europe on the bottom line total cost. I'm wandering now on a trip I wanted to make a couple of months ago, but couldn't. When I could see a window opening up last week I bought the tickets. The last-minute differential was only a bit over a hundred bucks. I could give a hoot about where I sit, which carrier, or which airport is a player. Even if it's Newark or Manila, it's just cringe and press on. Cheap trumps everything. Semi-unscrewed up this time by thinking I'd routed through Roissy, but miraculously the plane landed at Schiphol so's I could dash into town and stuff my face.

Posted by
14175 posts

Ed, I booked late a few years ago and on the transatlantic portion I ended up n row 20 center seat and my wife ended up in row 44 center seat. Do you think I have heard the end of it yet? Also I a m a little over 6 foot so I try and be a little picky. I am getting older and softer. If the transatlantic flight has the upgraded Economy seats i buy them. Adds about USD 200 to the tecket cost. I joined Priority Pass and I like long layovers so I don't have to worry so much about late flights or run between flights and so I can stretch, enjoy and get cleaned up. My favorite is connecting to Budapest (or any place for that matter) through Amsterdam as there is a club with showers. Its great to show up in the final destination, clean and fresh.

Posted by
3354 posts

We go somewhere in Europe every summer. We start looking at ticket prices 330+ days ahead in case we want to use FF miles. The past 3 years we haven't needed to use FF miles because there were some very good fares (< $900 pp/rt) out of LA to somewhere centrally located in Europe. This year we are flying to Vienna for this rate. I usually check fares a few more times before we fly in the summer and in the past 3 years I've not found that any fares have gone down during this time between our designated airports. I guess my ROT would be to not wait but check early/often and be flexible about using nearby airports. Fare alerts don't work so well for us because at the beginning of our planning phase to Europe we are usually quite flexible about airports/destinations and fare alerts aren't open ended. When you see a fare that is priced to your liking, book it.

Posted by
14175 posts

The only rates I am going to see that are under USD1000 will be direct flights from Houston or Dallas to Frankfurt, London or maybe 3 or 4 other locations in Western Europe. But Houston and Dallas are a 4.5 hour drive and my interests are further "east" than Frankfurt and London. I really do have specific destinations and not much latitude on that decision; and I end up with at least one change in the US and one change in Europe. My best fares the past few years have been about USD1200 before I start getting picky and then I ended up closer to USD1400 on three trips this year. I got pretty good rates for Christmas and I checked rates for a March trip without much surprise but I started this thread because I am looking at nearly USD1700 for a trip I have coming in June (into Istanbul and out of Sofia) and I was hoping there was some magic out there.

Posted by
7179 posts

I've been watching the airfares, and the Spring fares take effect about 3/29/2014 this year. I'm going into Budapest and out of Prague open jaw. I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution online every day, and Clark Howard has a travel agent watching everyday for bargain airfares. United threw in a $728 airfare out of ATL on a one day sale. They also offered the sale to a few other large cities. I booked the flight immediately. Today, the same airfare is $1,050, and flights are $1.2K for trips started 3/29/2014 and after. I have not looked at mid Summer flights, as I only travel in Spring and Fall. Flights were sky high for Summer, 2013, and prices are all supply and demand and competition. And the airlines are getting better at controling the supply of seating to Europe, and thus the airfares.
I cannot tell you how much money Clark Howard.com has saved me over the years on airfares. I'm sure the Atlanta travelers have saved $10's of millions from listening to him on the radio, newspaper and television (CNN). I'm just glad to have such available information.