When is the best day of the week to nab a seat cheap?

George Hobica, January 09, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    We read recently a comment by one of our favorite airfare pundits that Tuesday is the best time to buy airfares. Well, fans of Airfarewatchdog know better. Really, the best time to grab a cheap seat--note we didn't say a cheap airfare, because a cheap airfare is useless unless there's a seat available at that fare--could be any moment of any day of the week. (Having said that, Tuesday is often the cheapest day to travel, but that's not the same thing as saying Tuesday is the cheapest day to buy).

    True, some airlines have their weekly sales on Tuesdays, notably AirTran, and then other airlines match on competing routes. And the airlines launch their weekend deals on Monday and Tuesday. But Southwest launched its latest big sale on a Thursday (January 1 to be exact). And the best sales are the unadvertised ones, which sometimes are just on specific routes and can appear at any moment (also, airlines can open up extra cheap seats or seats can sell out at any moment as inventory dries up at the cheapest fare).

    So we beg to differ on Tuesday as being some magic day of the week.

    The best way to grab a cheap seat on a route you want is to sign up for airfare alerts-- from us, of course, but also take a look at Farecast, Yapta, and FareCompare (yes, we're linking to our competition, because we're just that kind of web site). Speaking of the competition, one thing to note is that these other alert services pretty much all get their fare data from the same computerized source. They do not include promo code deals such as the recent 50% sales that Southwest launched. And most of them do not track Southwest Airlines at all, or Spirit's wacky 1 cent sales, or fares on the constantly expanding Allegiant Airlines.  Nor do they track fares that are otherwise available only on an airline's web site (Airfarewatchdog uses real live human beings, many of them former travel agents and airline reservationists, to find fares so we include all that stuff).

    What's your fave day of the week, or time of the day, to buy fares? Or do you just agree with us that the best time is the moment that the fare goes down to a reasonable level, whenever that may be? Leave a comment and let us know!

    My only point here, really, is that airfares go up and down all day every day, as does seat availability at those fares, and if you confine your airfare searches to Tuesday you will miss good seats. Saying that "Tuesday is the best day" may make a good sound bite, but it's too broad and general a statement to be wise advice.