Most airlines let you book a flight far in advance, ranging from 6 months to almost a year.
How far in advance you can book a flight varies by airline, with American Airlines and Delta letting you book up to 331 day in advance, compared to JetBlue that lets you book 6 months in advance.
We’ll take a look at how early you can book on an airline-by-airline basis below, but should you even book a flight in advance in the first place?
Will it result in cheaper air fares, or is there a better time to book?
We’ll also discuss this.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Far in Advance Can You Book a Flight? (By Airline)
- 2 The Optimal Time to Book a Domestic Flight
- 3 The Optimal Time to Book an International Flight
- 4 Book Award Flights As Early As Possible
- 5 You Can’t Book Flights More Than 1 Year in Advance
- 6 Flights Won’t Be Cheaper If Booked When They’re Released
- 7 Last Minute Flights Definitely Aren’t Cheaper
- 8 You Can Book a Flight Shortly Before Take Off
- 9 The Cheapest Time to Book a Flight Varies
- 10 Bookings Open At Midnight (Corporate Time)
How Far in Advance Can You Book a Flight? (By Airline)
- American Airlines: You can book an American Airlines flight 331 days in advance.
- Allegiant: You can book an Allegiant flight 6-9 months in advance.
- Delta: You can book a Delta flight 331 days in advance.
- Frontier: You can book a Frontier flight 258 days in advance.
- Hawaiian Airlines: You can book a Hawaiian Airlines flight 330 days in advance.
- JetBlue: You can book a JetBlue flight 6-10 months in advance.
- Southwest: You can book a Southwest flight 254 days (8 months) in advance.
- Spirit: You can book a Spirit flight 330 days in advance.
- United: You can book a United flight 334-337 days depending on the day of the flight (exactly 11 months) in advance.
The Optimal Time to Book a Domestic Flight
You should a domestic between one and four months in advance, unless you are planning to fly during a peak holiday time or to a very popular destination, at which point you should book earlier.
The Optimal Time to Book an International Flight
You should an international flight between two and eight months in advance, unless you are planning to fly during a peak holiday time or to a very popular destination, at which point you should book earlier.
Book Award Flights As Early As Possible
While you should generally wait a few months to book a flight, when it comes to award flights, you should book them as soon as you can.
This is because there are so few award tickets on a given flight, so waiting will mean that you might miss out on a ticket.
Conversely, airlines will release award tickets at the last minute too, if there are lots of unsold seats.
So if you missed out booking an award ticket when an airline first released tickets, it’s still possible to get a ticket by waiting until very close to the flight’s departure date in some cases.
You Can’t Book Flights More Than 1 Year in Advance
Generally, you won’t be able to book a flight more than 1 year in advance, though charter flights that are sold by tour operators can be on sale as early as 18 months in advance.
Flights Won’t Be Cheaper If Booked When They’re Released
Flights are not cheaper the more in advance you book.
If anything, flight tickets are likely to be more expensive as airlines lock in eager travelers who can’t wait to book their flight.
Generally, the best time to book domestic flights is 1 to 4 months before the departure date, and 2 to 8 months for international flights in order to get the best price.
Many flights are also non-refundable, so booking a flight too far in advance can leave you with few options if your plans change, as they often do.
Last Minute Flights Definitely Aren’t Cheaper
While it used to be cheaper to book a flight at the last minute because airlines used to prioritize selling all seats, airlines today have found that they can maximize revenue by increasing ticket prices the closer to the departure date.
This is mainly because travelers who book a last minute flight are more desperate for tickets and are willing to pay more.
If there are only a few seats left on the plane, it’s also simply a matter of supply and demand.
So, if you’re hoping to save some money by booking a last-minute flight, it’s a strategy that won’t work.
You Can Book a Flight Shortly Before Take Off
If you turn up at an airliner’s counter at the airport and there are still seats available, you can book your ticket right there and then.
If booking online, you can usually book a flight up to two hours before departure.
The Cheapest Time to Book a Flight Varies
For domestic flights in the United States, flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are normally the cheapest.
For international flights, weekday flights are normally the cheapest.
The dates you fly and where you are flying to are also very important, as flight prices will inevitably be higher during periods of high demand like the holidays and destinations are more popular at some times of the year more than others.
As mentioned, the best time to book a domestic flight is 1 to 4 months before the departure date, and 2 to 8 months for international flights to get the best price.
CheapAir.com reports that according to the 2019 Annual Airfare Study, ticket rates increase within 3 weeks of the departure date.
Bookings Open At Midnight (Corporate Time)
As mentioned, you want to avoid booking a flight as soon as it goes on sale, but for award tickets, the earlier you book the better.
So if you want to be one of the first to book a flight, airlines will generally open bookings at midnight in the corporate timezone of where the airline is based.
However, this just a general rule to follow, and there can sometimes be a lag between when an airline releases its schedule and when flights are first bookable.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).