Save 30% on Your Airline Ticket by Picking the Right Days to Buy and Fly

Published on March 19, 2014 by

Summary

  • For domestic and international trips, the cheapest day to depart is Wednesday and the worst day is Sunday. You can save about $40 on domestic trips and $60 on international trips by leaving on the cheapest day as opposed to the most expensive day.
  • The best day to return from a domestic trip is Tuesdays with savings of about $45.
  • The best day to return from an international trip is Wednesday with savings of about $60.
  • Friday is the most expensive return day for both domestic and international trips.
  • Thursday is the cheapest day to buy domestic and international tickets.  Saturday is the worst day to buy domestic tickets and Sunday is the worst day to buy International tickets. However savings are only about $10 between the best and worst shopping days for typical domestic routes, and $25 for international markets.
  • For any tip that is true in aggregate it is possible to find a market that is the exception, but you can monitor your markets of interest using Hopper’s tools.
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Table 1: Summary of best and worst days to buy, depart, and return

 

Departure Day

To find the cheapest day to fly, Hopper looked at about 11 thousand markets from US origins - 7,500 domestic and 3,500 international - that had a popularity of at least 20 searches per day since January 1, 2013.  If we average all domestic destinations together, Tuesday is the cheapest departure day, with Sunday the most expensive.  Interestingly, Sunday is the least popular day to travel, with Tuesday a close second.  Using the same averaging methodology, the best day to travel for international flights is actually Saturday (Figure 1), which is also one of the most popular days to travel.

However, pricing and search behavior varies widely between markets, so averaging can be misleading.  For comparison, we counted how many markets saw their lowest prices on each day of the week, and the answers were different.  For both domestic and international travel, more markets have their lowest prices on Wednesdays (Figure 2) and their most expensive prices on Sunday.  Savings for leaving on the best day compared to the most expensive day range from $40 to $50 for domestic markets and $40 to $60 for international markets.

Figure 1:  Popularity and average price savings (vs. most expensive departure day) for domestic and international markets  

Figure 2:  Number of markets with the lowest departure price on each day of week, and average price savings (vs. most expensive departure day) for domestic and international markets

 

Return Day

On average, Tuesday is the cheapest day to return from domestic travel and Monday is the best day to return from international travel (Figure 3).  However, as was the case for the best departure day, the cheapest days are different when the analysis counts the number of markets by cheapest return day instead of looking at the average.  For both domestic and international destinations, the majority of markets had their cheapest price on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, with Tuesday being best for domestic and Wednesday for international markets (Figure 4).   The most expensive day to return is Friday.  When returning on the best day, potential savings are between $40 and $60 for both domestic and international trips, as compared to booking on the worst day.

Figure 3: Popularity and average price savings (vs. most expensive return day) for domestic and international markets  

Figure 4: Number of markets with the lowest departure price on each day of week, and average price savings (vs. most expensive return day) for domestic and international markets

 

Booking Day

One of the tips that shows up often is to shop for flights on a Tuesday (1) after airlines change their pricing.  Looking at average pricing we found that for domestic flights the cheapest tickets actually show up on Thursday, and for international flights Saturday and Sunday are the cheapest to book on (Figure 5).  When counting the number of markets that see the lowest booking price for each week day, Hopper found that Thursday is the cheapest day to book for the majority of domestic and international markets (Figure 6) and the weekends are when tickets are the most expensive.  However, while the difference in pricing from day to day can be significant in select markets, on average the savings are only about $10 for domestic markets and $30 for international markets.

Figure 5: Popularity and average price savings (vs. most expensive booking day) for domestic and international markets  

Figure 6:  Number of markets with the lowest departure price on each day of week, and average price savings (vs. most expensive booking day) for domestic and international markets

For any tip that is true in aggregate it is possible to find a market that is the exception, but you can monitor your markets of interest using Hopper’s tools.

1.http://www.farecompare.com/travel-advice/tips-from-air-travel-insiders/

Data and Methodology

The data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution Service (GDS) data sources which includes about 10 million queries and 1 billion trips per day.  Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market.  Deal fares are represented by the 10th percentile prices.  For example if the 10th percentile price is $800 dollars it means that only 10% of trips are priced at or below this price.

For this analysis, we looked at about 11 thousand markets worldwide, 7,500 domestic and 3,500 international, that had a popularity of at least 1,000 searches per week since January 1, 2013.  We used two methodologies to find cheapest days to depart, return, and purchase.  First we averaged flight prices to find cheapest days, and second we counted the number with cheapest days for each day of the week.

 

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