A recent study by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation suggests there might actually be an optimal time to buy airplane tickets.
Travelers often swap theories on the right—and wrong—time to book a flight. We've heard it all: The lowest fares are on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. ET. (No, Wednesdays at 1 a.m.!) You need to book at least two months before you fly. (No, you should look for a deal and fly at the last minute!) Websites like the now-defunct Farecast and Kayak suggest when you should buy, or if you should wait—like we're all trading stocks—but there's no guarantee. And according to George Hobica of AirfareWatchdog, "There is no secret time. You need to look four times a day—minimum—every day of the week, as far in advance as you can."
But a recent study by Expedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation has us paying attention. After analyzing data from industry sources such as the International Air Transport Association, Diio Mi, and the Airline Tariff Publishing Company, the companies have settled on a time frame when you're "in the best position to get a good deal." They also determined when U.S. consumers typically buy domestic or international tickets (it's different from when you should—see below.) At least we can all agree on one thing: "Tuesday appears to remain the best day of the week to find low fares on air travel booked at least three weeks in advance," according to the study, "Preparing for Takeoff: Air Travel Trends 2015."
WHEN WE BUY
The average advance-purchase time for domestic flights
The average advance-purchase time for international flights
WHEN WE SHOULD BUY
The ideal advance-purchase time for domestic flights—to snag the lowest average airfare
The ideal advance-purchase time for international flights