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Timing in booking airfare
Old 05-07-2012, 03:41 PM   #1
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Timing in booking airfare

We booked a flight for early September to Paris with Air France. That was in early February. Now the 2 flight tickets are a total of $500 cheaper . Air France is one airline that will not reissue tickets if the price declines. We did get a good price on a popular good value hotel booking that early -- so eases pain somewhat.

This makes me wonder how to do it better next time. Or is it a crap shoot? Here is a link to an article which seems to indicate we were not too far off in booking when we did: Book Well Ahead to Save Money on Airfare - NYTimes.com

When I buy something somewhat expensive from Amazon I can check the pricing history at Amazon price tracker, Amazon price history charts, price watches, and price drop alerts. | camelcamelcamel.com . It would be great if there were something comparable for airfare.
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:13 PM   #2
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We booked a flight for early September to Paris with Air France. That was in early February. Now the 2 flight tickets are a total of $500 cheaper . Air France is one airline that will not reissue tickets if the price declines. We did get a good price on a popular good value hotel booking that early -- so eases pain somewhat.

This makes me wonder how to do it better next time. Or is it a crap shoot? Here is a link to an article which seems to indicate we were not too far off in booking when we did: Book Well Ahead to Save Money on Airfare - NYTimes.com

When I buy something somewhat expensive from Amazon I can check the pricing history at Amazon price tracker, Amazon price history charts, price watches, and price drop alerts. | camelcamelcamel.com . It would be great if there were something comparable for airfare.
Some of the travel sites will give you a matrix showing what fares people have paid recently for the same flight. I think you can also subscribe and get a email whenever the price changes for a particular flight. There is also a website called flight talk or something similar that lets you know the tricks the mileage junkies frequent flyers use
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:23 PM   #3
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I think in the world of high oil prices and who knows where they can be in the future, airlines have started to price tickets higher the longer out they are... I ususally try to get them within 2 months of flying and sometimes even one month... it has saved me a bundle waiting...
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:43 PM   #4
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The trend for airfare sales that I observe is that when a sale occurs it is for the flights over the next 1 to 4 months out. They rarely cover out as far as you booked.

In my opinion you (perhaps) bought too soon.

But you just never know, fares could indeed go up if there is a lot of demand.

Think of the game of chicken...The airline will try to sell at a high price and hold out. You want a low price and can hold out. Someone has to eventually jump in and make the deal.
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:55 PM   #5
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More often than not you can save big buying early (if you don't believe it just go online and get rates on a given flight for 4, 3, 2 & 1 week out - I've done it more than once), but I wouldn't buy more than 4 weeks in advance. Fuel costs can confound the situation but that can work both ways so I'd still buy early. I lost money buying a ticket early with American once, but I've come out ahead every other time.
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:14 PM   #6
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More often than not you can save big buying early (if you don't believe it just go online and get rates on a given flight for 4, 3, 2 & 1 week out - I've done it more than once), but I wouldn't buy more than 4 weeks in advance. Fuel costs can confound the situation but that can work both ways so I'd still buy early. I lost money buying a ticket early with American once, but I've come out ahead every other time.
what you observe is the businessman anti-discount. For those business people who have to book at relatively short notice and will pay the price... the airlines usually have a high-priced seat for them.

What I and the OP were referring to is... How does the leisure traveler get those rock-bottom airfares ?

If you can wait for one of their sales that occur infrequently then you just may get a better price.

I may add that trying to figure out airfare prices and trying to get the best ones is quite maddening. The best bet is to know a good deal when you see it and act on it when it's available.
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:21 PM   #7
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More often than not you can save big buying early (if you don't believe it just go online and get rates on a given flight for 4, 3, 2 & 1 week out - I've done it more than once), but I wouldn't buy more than 4 weeks in advance. Fuel costs can confound the situation but that can work both ways so I'd still buy early. I lost money buying a ticket early with American once, but I've come out ahead every other time.
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what you observe is the businessman anti-discount. For those business people who have to book at relatively short notice and will pay the price... the airlines usually have a high-priced seat for them.

What I and the OP were referring to is... How does the leisure traveler get those rock-bottom airfares ?

If you can wait for one of their sales that occur infrequently then you just may get a better price.
Not sure how you can plan on having a sale coincide with travel dates, you'd have to just get lucky or be flexible on travel dates I guess. The discount I've seen described above is available on Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity or any of them. But I suspect you already know that...
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:29 PM   #8
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I don't know about overseas airfares.

My recent experience on domestic, however, taught me that 4 weeks out is probably the min time. I knew that at 21 days the "cheap" seats were usually pulled. But it turned out that some of the times ran out of cheap seats at less than 4 weeks out, and I had to take an earlier flight to get the best price. I'm going to start checking at 6 weeks, and the close at 4 weeks, and do my shopping on the better days of the week (Tues thru Thurs) see below.

I also learned: flight price quotes go up on a Friday, and drop on late Monday or by Tuesday. This was also true for rental cars. For a weekly rate, reserving a rental on Fri-Mon was about $100 more than when I checked on a Wednesday. Annoying that!
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:23 PM   #9
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I always try to pick up a departure date on Wednesdays or Thursdays when booking a flight online. Midweek departures and arrivals are often cheaper.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:36 PM   #10
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Bing took over the website whose name I forget which tells you whether the odds favor buying now vs later on various flights. Click on the Travel tab on bing.com
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:17 AM   #11
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I think in the world of high oil prices and who knows where they can be in the future, airlines have started to price tickets higher the longer out they are... I ususally try to get them within 2 months of flying and sometimes even one month... it has saved me a bundle waiting...
This makes some sense in the pricing model. The airlines are having the early ticket purchasers shoulder the burden of volatile energy prices.

Maybe in the future we'll book some hotels in a wider range of dates, try to get the air tickets closer to the vacation time, then revise the hotel dates. For some trips that might work out.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:24 AM   #12
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Thanks for the comments so far everyone. Some useful ideas on how to proceed next time around.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:18 PM   #13
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Once I know my travel plans, I tend to shop for airfare for a few days but usually make a decision within a week or so. I have learned one trick that guarantees I got the best price (especially on nonrefundable airfares), and works every time ------once I buy the ticket I never check the price again.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:59 PM   #14
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In March I was checking prices for flights to Denver for the first week in July. I found the flights I wanted at a great price and by the time I got through the steps to actually book them and pay, the prices had changed substantially. I waited a week or so to see if the price went back down and it didn't so I went ahead and bought them for about $80 more per ticket than I had originally seen before the price changed. Bummer.

I've read about waiting until closer to your travel date to book and getting a lower price but I need 4 tickets for a trip for a family get together and the dates are not flexible. The family designated Sunday through Saturday so no mid week bargain opportunities. I'd hate to wait to book and then find only 3 seats instead of the 4 we need.

We don't travel very often so I'm ok with paying a little more and traveling non-stop.

FYI - I used Kayak.com for checking prices and getting daily updates.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:10 PM   #15
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Once I know my travel plans, I tend to shop for airfare for a few days but usually make a decision within a week or so. I have learned one trick that guarantees I got the best price (especially on nonrefundable airfares), and works every time ------once I buy the ticket I never check the price again.
+1. Same for cars, appliances, etc.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:15 PM   #16
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Once I know my travel plans, I tend to shop for airfare for a few days but usually make a decision within a week or so. I have learned one trick that guarantees I got the best price (especially on nonrefundable airfares), and works every time ------once I buy the ticket I never check the price again.
+2

A good price is good enough for us and a lot less stressful.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:18 PM   #17
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Once I know my travel plans, I tend to shop for airfare for a few days but usually make a decision within a week or so. I have learned one trick that guarantees I got the best price (especially on nonrefundable airfares), and works every time ------once I buy the ticket I never check the price again.
Yep -- it's just an exercise in frustration otherwise. It's too bad airlines never have those "lowest fare guarantees" like some hotels and other travel-related services have. Since they don't, I don't want to see "last minute bargains" that are half of what I paid.

In reality the best thing is to have maximum flexibility on when and where you go, and the ability to leave on a couple day's notice at most. Have a list of places you'd like to go if one of them appears on these last minute "travel bargains" list, grab it and start packing.

Most w*rking stiffs don't have that luxury.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:31 PM   #18
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Like others mentioned, I'm afraid of waiting to the 4-6 week point to buy. I just can't handle the stress of wondering if I won't be able to book at all. And I agree with the "never checking again" club, no need to torture myself!
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:36 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by mystang52 View Post
Once I know my travel plans, I tend to shop for airfare for a few days but usually make a decision within a week or so. I have learned one trick that guarantees I got the best price (especially on nonrefundable airfares), and works every time ------once I buy the ticket I never check the price again.
+3. I flew to Milan a few years ago for $600. I met coworkers there who had paid $1500 and $3000 respectively, they waited to buy tickets.

I went to a concert and paid $300/seat to get DW 2 rows from her idol. I overheard the girls in front of us paid $99/seat as fan club members. A couple 4 seats away in our row volunteered they'd paid a scalper $1200/seat. We all enjoyed the show...
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:03 PM   #20
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For checking prices on domestic travel, I like Google Flights Flights - Google Search

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