How Far in Advance Should I Book a Flight?
Booking a ticket in advance is always a good idea since it not only allows you to book a cheaper flight but it also gives you more choices. You won’t have to settle for a flight that leaves at an ungodly hour of the night or one that puts you in the middle of a very busy airport. It’s even common knowledge by now that if you want to get a good price for your ticket, you need to book it in advance. The question is, how far in advance is it ideal for a person to get the best possible rate for a flight?
Some people think that booking a flight, particularly one that takes them on a vacation, should be booked 6 months in advance. Others think that booking the flight a month before the vacation is good enough to get them good ticket rates. In reality, there is more than just one way for you to get great ticket prices when it comes to advance booking and here are some of the things to consider:
Are you flying within the country or out of the country? – The windows for booking domestic flights and international flights are different. For domestic flights, the ideal time frame for booking in advance in between 1 and 3 months before your scheduled trip. It has been noted that when it comes to flights from one part of the country to another, ticket rates are pretty steep 6 months before the flight but tend to go down 3 months after. It has also been seen that some of the lowest prices you can get for domestic flights are those that you book 7 weeks to a month before your trip.
For international flights, on the other hand, don’t display the kind of fluctuation in prices that domestic ones do. If you want to get the best rates for international travel, you should consider booking 5 to 6 months ahead of your trip. The closer to your travel date it is, you will find that the price of your ticket will slowly go up.
Are you traveling to a popular destination? – If you are traveling to a very popular destination, it is highly likely that prices for these are pretty high. Booking way ahead of time is always a good idea when going to very popular places. One of the good things about flying to these destinations during peak seasons is the possibility of flight compensation. If you have a ticket for a particularly popular destination and your flight gets delayed due to huge number of passengers heading to that location on various flights, you might be entitled to flight delay compensation if your flight does not take off on schedule.
What time of the year are you planning on traveling? – The rule for booking travel during popular times of the year, like Christmas or Spring Break, is to book flights ahead of time. Much like booking tickets for flights heading out to popular destinations, peak seasons of the year rarely see a downtrend in ticket prices, particularly when it is just a few weeks away. The closer it is to these popular travel dates, the higher the prices will be.
Reasonable amount of time for this would be 6 months before your flight, although some people say 4 months ahead of schedule can still bring you good prices. If there are more people than available seats on these flights, you might find yourself being bumped off or moved to another flight that is at a later hour. When this happens, you are entitled to a flight delay claim.
Book your flights on specific times of the day to avail of better prices. – No, this is not a myth. There are actually times in the day that give you better rates. There was even a time when booking flights mid-afternoon on a Tuesday gave you up to 6% less on any of your flights. These days however, it is dependent on the popularity of your destination and what time of the year you will be traveling. So, a combination of mid-afternoon bookings on Tuesdays or Thursdays and 4 to 6 months ahead of your travel date might get you some of the best ticket rates. As always, if these flights that you booked way ahead of time are delayed or cancelled for any reason, you are entitled to either an airline delay compensation or flight cancellation compensation.
Tips and Tricks for Getting the Best Airfare
If you want to ensure that you get a great price for your airline ticket, booking on the right month on the right day at the right time is important. There are even some who have been able to come up with estimates for specific seasons when it comes to getting low-priced tickets. For example, if you are flying out during the winter season, booking two months ahead is ideal. For summer, a month and a half is acceptable. Spring requires that flights be booked three months ahead so you can avail of the best prices. Fall travel, on the other hand, should be booked two months and a half ahead of time.
There are a few other tips and tricks that you can use to ensure you get the best prices for the flights you are booking. Here are some of them:
Use apps that help you locate the lowest prices for your target destination. – There are actually apps that scour the web for cheap flights to where you are planning on going. These apps can even notify you when a price drop happens for your intended travel dates and location. Some apps estimate when prices are bound to drop and will have you schedule your ticket purchase on those days.
Take note of times of the year when specific airlines slash prices for their flights. – A lot of airlines try to increase the number of people flying to certain destinations by holding flight sales that slash prices immensely. Some airlines reduce their ticket prices by as much as 80% during such events. These are usually one day events and are often due to special occasions, like the company’s anniversary or some monumental event that the airline wants to commemorate with a ticket price slash. Just take note that some of these low-priced, special event tickets might put you in an overbooked flight, which can cause delays or cancellations. It helps to know what your flight claim rights are at this point so you can get just compensation when this happens.
Check for packages that include hotel accommodations for additional discounts. – There are some airlines that partner with certain hotels that give travelers additional savings on their trips. Some airlines slash prices for passengers who book rooms in a partner hotel and some hotels offer discounts on flights booked on airlines that they are associated with.
Understanding Cancellation Rights and Claims
One of the things you will notice when you book flights for peak seasons of the year and to popular destinations is that these have a higher chance of being delayed or cancelled. When this happens, it pays to know what your rights are, literally. To understand what you are entitled to, knowing more about EU flight compensation and other flight compensation regulations will help.
In the European Union (EU), you get more protection and compensation when it comes to delayed and cancelled flights. This is because of the EU261 compensation regulations that allow passengers to claim up to €600 in reimbursements for disrupted flights. This is, of course, dependent on the type of disruption that occurred and the destination of the flight.
In the US, airlines are more protected than the passengers. This does not mean however, that passengers have no rights when it comes to delays or cancellations to their flight. The difference between the US and EU is that in the former, the airline has the discretion to offer compensation and how much to passengers who are victims of such cancellations or delays.
The things you can do when your flight in the US is cancelled is to have it rebooked free of charge to the same destination at a later date, or a refund for the said ticket. You are also entitled to refunds on all the fees you paid for the flight. This includes baggage handling fees, seat assignment fees, etc. Some airlines may offer you vouchers on top of the refund or rebooking as incentive to book with them again.
Some airlines however don’t offer any concessions unless the flight is delayed by more than 4 hours or is cancelled. If your flight is delayed by only 3 hours, don’t expect any compensation in the US. Also worth noting is that if the delay or cancellation is because of force majeure, the airline cannot be held responsible and no compensation or concessions may be forthcoming.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, booking a cheap flight is usually achieved by booking way ahead of time. There are special circumstances however that can get you cheaper tickets closer to your flight date, like undersold flights or some event making your destination not-so-desirable to go to. Whatever the case may be, keeping yourself updated with the help of apps and notifications for such price drops can help you score some of the cheapest airline tickets around, regardless of when you book them.