5 Proven Methods for Finding Affordable Airline Tickets

In this article, our team at Tripmydream has put common airline ticket tips to the test and analyzed the factors that genuinely impact airfares. After reading this, you'll have a clear understanding of when and how to purchase airline tickets profitably!
28 august 2018

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To provide a well-founded analysis, we've diligently examined and compared airfare prices based on user searches from tripmydream over the past two years. The results have revealed that airfare pricing is far more intricate than one might assume.

First and foremost, it's crucial to understand that airline pricing is highly automated and extends well beyond conventional factors like the day of the week or the time until departure. Most significantly, pricing is heavily influenced by the demand for a specific flight. In essence, if tickets are selling briskly, the price tends to increase, whereas it decreases when sales are slow. Equally significant is the competitive landscape: when multiple airlines serve a route (three or more), prices are typically more competitive. Nonetheless, we've uncovered some intriguing patterns along the way.

Airport lobby

Rule #1: Is Booking in Advance Worth It?

Timing before your departure plays a significant role in ticket pricing, and each airline has its unique cheapest periods. For instance, if an airline needs immediate cash flow, it might introduce a sale for flights departing up to a year in the future or extend the duration for which the cheapest tickets are available. To illustrate, last year, UIA offered budget-friendly fares for early bookings of airfares, spanning a period of 10-11 months before departure. While we can't assert that the airline has entirely abandoned such fares, they have indeed adjusted the timeframe for offering discounted tickets. Broadly speaking, all routes with MAU can be categorized into two parts:

  1. Ticket prices exhibit minimal dependency on the time until departure (except during the initial 45-60 days before departure when prices tend to be notably higher), and the cost of a ticket for December will be quite similar to that of June 2019.
  2. The most economical fares are typically available between October and Februar, representing a window of 60-180 days before departure.
Airport lounge

It's challenging to establish a distinct boundary between these two groups. However, in general terms, we can make the following observations: The first group primarily comprises destinations with lower competition for flights to the Schengen zone, such as Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Amsterdam, Brussels, Athens, as well as domestic flights within countries and non-European destinations like Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Tbilisi, and Baku. The second group encompasses highly competitive routes to Schengen zone cities, often overlapping with low-cost carrier routes, including destinations like Milan, Warsaw, Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Vilnius, Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, and others.

Turkish Airlines and FlyDubai, for example, hardly allocate the cheapest periods at all for flights from Ukraine. They only have higher ticket prices for the first 60 days before departure.

Low-cost carriers, on the other hand, have the cheapest periods roughly the same. For Ryanair, it's 75-150 days before departure (about 20% below average price). At Wizz Air the situation is similar, but in the period of 75-100 days before departure the prices fall even more significantly - about 2 times the average. For Ernest Airlines, it's 90-180 days (also about 20% down).

Rule #2. Does the day of the week matter?

There again it is worth paying attention to the differences in pricing between low-cost and scheduled airlines. While the former's round-trip ticket price consists simply of the sum of two one-way tickets, the latter's individual round-trip tickets will cost you on average one and a half times more than the round-trip fare, although in practice this ratio can vary considerably. For this reason, not only the day of the week of departure but also the day of the week of arrival matters for round-trip tickets on scheduled airlines.

picture of a porthole window
pigeons against the Eiffel Tower

All low-cost carriers have the most expensive tickets on Sunday (15-20% more expensive than the average price) and the cheapest tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday (15-20% cheaper). Flying on Friday and Saturday will cost you 5-10% more. Although, for example, at Ernest Airlines, the difference between days of the week varies only within 5%.

For scheduled airlines, the direction of travel and the number of days between flights also matter. For example, a ticket departing and returning the same day will cost about 15% more and returning the next day will cost 5% more, almost regardless of whether you fly on Tuesday or Sunday. For longer trips, the most expensive option is to fly out on a Saturday and return the following Saturday or Sunday. Slightly cheaper is a two-day trip Friday-Sunday. The cheapest option (average 10% savings) is to fly out Tuesday through Thursday and return 5-6 days later (but not Sunday). Interestingly, 7-day tickets even with a Wednesday or Thursday departure will not save you much.

The difference in demand for flight routes from point A to point B and vice versa can significantly impact ticket prices. For example, on the Kyiv-Milan route, around 80% of travelers book tickets with the first segment from Kyiv to Milan and then return to Kyiv. Consequently, a two-day trip from Friday to Sunday, Kyiv-Milan-Kyiv, will typically cost about 5% more than the same trip on the route Milan-Kyiv-Milan. Similarly, Kyiv-Milan-Kyiv tickets from Sunday to Saturday will generally be about 5% cheaper than tickets for the same dates on the Milan-Kyiv-Milan route.

Rule #3. High and Low Season

This rule has become less pronounced in recent times. Seasonality still matters in charter transportation, but for regular and low-cost airlines, it's mainly expressed through changes in flight schedules between winter and summer. Airlines typically operate on a winter schedule from the end of October to the end of March and a summer schedule from the end of March to the end of October. The frequency of flights to specific destinations can vary significantly, helping to balance demand and prices across all destinations.

the shadow of an airplane on a field

Rule #4. When should you look for tickets?

Now, let's dive into some surprises. Imagine you were searching for tickets during your lunch break at work, found something interesting, and then came home in the evening to look again and make the purchase. Well, I have to disappoint you - statistically, during this time, ticket prices tend to go up. And don't even think about booking tickets at night. Paradoxically, from midnight to 7 am, the average price of airfare is 1% higher. While a 1% difference might not seem significant, it's essential to note that the fluctuations in ticket prices during the day are not as influenced by the time of day as they are by factors like booking on different days. However, based on our extensive data analysis, searching for tickets at night is unlikely to benefit you, but it could lead to overpaying. The most favorable times to search are typically from 8 to 12 and from 14 to 18 hours on weekdays. Interestingly, ticket prices during the day on weekends tend to remain relatively stable.

Rule #5. What is the best device to search and book from?

It's no secret that many websites have learned to analyze customer behavior and personalize the content they provide. This applies not only to airline tickets but is particularly noticeable when it comes to ticket bookings.

airplane takeoff
Photo author - undefined

Depending on the device you're using, your location, and your past purchase history on a website, your search results for airline tickets can vary. Users of iPhones/iPads, individuals from high-income countries, and frequent website users are more likely to experience these variations. To test this theory, you can always use incognito mode in your browser or a VPN.

It's important to mention that not all websites employ such tactics. For example, at tripmydream, we do not use user data to adjust pricing - we'll display all the best deals available.

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