Some say you should book flights on a certain day of the week or a specific time of day. And a few studies have even claimed that you should book your flight exactly X days before departure. Don’t believe any of it.
While there is no concrete rule for when to book a flight, there’s plenty you can do to avoid paying more than you’d like.
Best Time to Book a Flight and When You Can
We’ve said it many times before. A cheap flight can pop up at any time, 24/7, 365 days a year. That being said, airlines tend to have more regular fare sales for off-season travel between 3 weeks and 4 months before the departure date. This doesn’t mean a great price won’t pop-up earlier or later, it’s just the time when airlines are doing all they can to fill seats that haven’t sold yet.
Don’t expect to find last-minute deals though. More often than not, if you wait until less than three weeks before the departure date, you’ll end up paying more. Every fare has its own rules and restrictions and the vast majority of both advertised and unadvertised sale fares require a 7, 14, or 21-day advance purchase with the latter being the most frequent. And prices tend to creep up the longer you wait within 3 weeks before departure. The cheapest long-haul international fare rules sometimes require a 28, 50, or 90-day advance purchase.
Last-minute fares that only require a 3-day advance purchase or no advance purchase requirement at all are usually much higher since they are geared towards business travelers. We do still see some last-minute deals — especially in the off-season — but it’s usually on budget airlines that are not catering to business travelers. That’s not to say a legacy carrier won’t have any last-minute deals. It’s just pretty rare that the lowest available fare on a major airline will be valid for travel within a week of departure.
Related: The Best Time to Book a Flight? Your Top 10 Travel Questions Answered
How Far in Advance Should You Book a Flight for Holidays?
If you’re traveling for a special event or holiday, it may be best to book as early as possible. Airlines will usually price fares around the major holidays higher as soon as they are available for sale, but might not be aware of certain events like sporting events, concerts, or conventions when the schedules are loaded. Of course, if you book way in advance, you’ll want to be fairly certain that your plans won’t change. Most Basic Economy fares cannot be changed — even for a fee — so if something comes up, you’ll have to just eat the cost of the ticket that you can no longer use.
In short, the best time to book a flight is when its cheap or there has been a significant drop in price. Anyone who claims to give a specific time frame for advanced booking is simply giving false hope that you’ll definitely find a good deal if you book at that certain time. Stats are great, but reporting average pricing data for advanced bookings and saying that exactly x days before your flight is the best time to book is bad advice.
Instead, start looking for a deal as soon as flights become available to book. This is a solid strategy and since schedules are published, you’ll always know when you can book a flight on your favorite airline. Track prices for your dates and get to know what the normal price is and be ready to pounce when it drops, because the price can (and usually does) go back up very quickly.
Related: How to Find the Cheapest Flight for Your Next Trip
Advanced Flight Booking Schedules by Airline
Each airline has its own policy on how far in advance you can book a flight. U.S. legacy carriers allow you to book a flight 11 months in advance while low-cost carriers usually have a set end date for the booking calendar and schedules get extended every few months. Below, I’ve listed the current booking windows for each major U.S. airline.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Alaska Airlines?
Alaska Airlines accepts reservations for travel up to 330 days from today.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Allegiant Airlines?
Allegiant Airlines is currently accepting reservations for travel through November 16, 2020. Many of Allegiant’s routes are seasonal and may have a shorter booking window. Allegiant extends its booking schedule seasonally and flights are usually available to book 4 to 9 months in advance.
How far in advance can I book a flight on American Airlines?
American Airlines accepts reservations for travel up to 331 days from today.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Delta Air Lines?
Delta accepts reservations for travel up to 331 days from today.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Frontier Airlines?
Frontier Airlines is currently accepting reservations for travel through September 21, 2021. Frontier has many seasonal routes that might have a shorter booking window. Frontier extends its booking calendar seasonally and flights are usually available to book 4 to 7 months in advance. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Frontier is now selling tickets for travel more than a year in advance.
Related: Members Only Airfares and How to Book Them
How far in advance can I book a flight on Hawaiian Airlines?
Hawaiian Airlines accepts reservations for travel up to 330 days from today.
How far in advance can I book a flight on JetBlue?
JetBlue is currently accepting reservations for travel through January 4, 2021. JetBlue states that it plans schedules close to one year in advance and usually releases flights for bookings between 6 and 10 months in advance.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Southwest Airlines?
Southwest Airlines is currently accepting reservations for travel through October 30, 2020. It plans to extend its booking schedule for travel through January 4, 2021, on June 3, 2020. Southwest extends its booking calendar every few months and you can check the current flight schedules here.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Spirit Airlines?
Spirit Airlines is currently accepting reservations for travel through November 17, 2020. If you try to book a flight beyond this date, you’ll get an error message stating that schedules will be loaded in the near future. A few routes are seasonal and may have a shorter booking window. Spirit extends its booking schedule seasonally and flights are usually available to book 6 to 10 months in advance.
How far in advance can I book a flight on Sun Country Airlines?
Sun Country Airlines is currently accepting reservations for travel through December 14, 2020. Some routes on Sun Country are seasonal and may have a shorter booking window. Sun Country extends its booking calendar seasonally and flights are usually available to book 3 to 8 months in advance.
How far in advance can I book a flight on United Airlines?
United accepts reservations for travel up to 337 days from today.
How far in advance can I book a flight on international airlines?
International legacy carriers like British Airways, Air France, and Lufthansa sell tickets slightly earlier than U.S. carriers do. You’ll be able to book flights on many major international airlines up to 360 days before departure. International low-cost airlines follow the same model as low-cost airlines in the U.S. by having a shorter booking window with a set schedule for sale at any given time. Booking calendars get extended seasonally or every few months and you can usually find the current booking calendar stated somewhere when searching directly on an airline’s website.
Related: How to Get a Refund When Your Flight Price Drops After You Buy
Booking schedules have been updated as of April 21, 2020.
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