If you fly often, whether you’re a business traveler or leisure traveler, you may have been frustrated and confused with how flight prices change seemingly randomly.
However, seeing lower prices isn’t necessarily random.
Airlines change the prices of their flights according to market demand, and they drop prices mostly when demand for a route is low, which often happens in winter (outside the holidays).
You can also expect flight prices to drop between 4 months and 3 weeks before the departure date, and early on in the week, such as on Tuesday afternoons and Wednesdays.
Keep reading, so you’ll never be in doubt as to why the price of flights change, and the best and worst days and time to book your flight tickets.
Table of Contents
- 1 6 Reasons Why Flight Prices Drop & Change
- 2 Flight Prices Change Multiple Times a Day
- 3 When International Flight Prices Drop
- 4 Flight Prices Dropping on Tuesday is a Myth
- 5 Prices Don’t Drop Closer to the Departure Date
- 6 Airline Tickets Don’t Actually Get More Expensive the More You Search
- 7 The Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly
- 8 The Cheapest Months to Fly
- 9 Avoid Flying on the Weekends and in December to Save Money
- 10 Frequency of Flight Price Changes
- 11 Use Flight Booking Platforms to Find Cheaper Flights
6 Reasons Why Flight Prices Drop & Change
Airlines change prices to maximize ticket sales and revenue, so it can be heard to score the best deal easily.
Ultimately, flight ticket prices primarily depend on market demand. When airlines feel that fewer people want a flight, expect to see the lowest prices, and when there’s higher demand for flights, airlines increase prices.
More specifically, airlines use the following factors to judge the best time to change prices:
1. Popularity of the Destination
Prices for a destination may dramatically increase if it suddenly becomes more popular.
For example, big events like the Superbowl increase demand for the location they’re held in, resulting in increased fares to those places.
The same can apply for major conferences that business travelers fly to, or Spring Break for leisure travelers.
As a sidenote, this is one of the exceptions for when you shouldn’t book your flight before your hotel.
2. Off-Peak vs. Peak Travel Times
Off-peak travel times are characterized by fewer travelers and often coincide with specific periods throughout the year.
- Non-Holiday Periods: Off-peak travel typically occurs outside major holiday seasons, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Traveling in the weeks or months leading up to or after these holidays can lead to more affordable fares.
- Midweek Travel: Weekdays are considered off-peak days for air travel. Flights are generally less crowded and more competitively priced during these times.
- Off-Seasons: Certain destinations have distinct off-seasons when weather conditions or other factors deter tourists. Traveling to these locations during their off-season can yield substantial savings.
Conversely, peak travel periods refers to times when there is a surge in demand for flights, such as during the holiday rush, special events, weekend travel, and peak travel seasons at a particular destination.
3. Seats Sold
Filling all seats is a priority for airlines.
If demand for a flight is low and there’s low occupancy, ticket prices may decrease to encourage more people to buy, and this is your best chance of getting the best deal.
Conversely, if demand for a flight increases, airlines will increase prices to fill their planes to obtain the most profit per ticket.
4. Flight Cancellations
Real-world events, including economic problems and strikes, sometimes lead to flight cancellations.
Normally, when this happens, it means there are fewer total seats available for a specific route, which can greatly affect leisure travelers who have no choice but to make a last minute booking.
As a result, an airline will increase prices if they’re certain demand for the route still exists.
There’s zero chance of getting a flight deal when this happens.
5. Fuel Prices
When fuel prices increase, it’s inevitable that an airline will have to pass these costs onto their customers in the form of more expensive flights to protect their margins.
Conversely, when fuel prices decrease, flights may become cheaper.
6. Historical Analysis
While it’s not always possible to draw general predictions about when prices will increase or decrease, historical data could still give you some indication of price changes.
Google Flights can therefore help you establish the best time to book a flight by helping you spot when the lowest prices occur.
Flight Prices Change Multiple Times a Day
Flight prices can change multiple times a day depending on several factors, including:
- Market conditions
- Number of flight bookings
- Seat Availability
- Number of Routes
Normally, most flights only change in price once per day, though.
Airlines regularly change prices during the week depending on competitor’s prices and other factors, which is done to maximize profits and increase the number of filled seats.
So the priority is to increase total profits, not increase the price per ticket.
To achieve that, they’ll also evaluate seat demand and availability.
Most price adjustments done by airlines are automatically completed using software, which analyzes competitor data.
When International Flight Prices Drop
For international flights out of the United States, weekday flights are normally the cheapest, though not necessarily on Tuesday afternoons as once believed.
This trend is set to continue in 2023.
Flight Prices Dropping on Tuesday is a Myth
While, yes, there are cheap flights on Tuesdays, you can often find cheaper flights on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
So, the idea that flights are cheapest on Tuesdays is largely an outdated myth – and there also wasn’t a certain time that airfares dropped on Tuesdays either.
Modern airlines frequently change their prices and have no set policies for reducing fares during specific days of the week.
Airline ticket prices depend entirely on the airline’s perceived profitability.
So, don’t assume you’re guaranteed a better deal on a Tuesday flight.
Prices Don’t Drop Closer to the Departure Date
Generally, the price of flights do not go down as the departure date approaches. If anything, plane tickets are actually likely to become more expensive the closer to departure you get.
CheapAir reports that according to their Annual Airfare Study, ticket rates increase within 3 weeks of the departure date.
Of course, there may be additional factors that affect plane ticket rates, such as seasonal holidays and changes.
Airline Tickets Don’t Actually Get More Expensive the More You Search
But there is no evidence to suggest that the more often you search for flights online, the more the price will increase, regardless if you use Google Flights or another comparison tool.
In fact, there’s actually evidence to suggest that you’ll see lower prices if you’re a logged-in user who frequently searches for flights via online travel agencies.
You can confirm this by searching for flights using both your regular browser and then switching to incognito mode
Airlines are more likely to provide you with discounts and cheaper flight tickets if you regularly fly with them and use credit cards that offer bonuses with that airline.
The Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly
For domestic flights in the United States, airline tickets are cheapest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are normally the cheapest.
As just mentioned, weekday flights are normally the cheapest when flying internationally, though not necessarily on Tuesday as once believed.
The Cheapest Months to Fly
Generally, the lower prices for domestic flights in the United States are in January; January has 10% cheaper fares than June on average for domestic airfares.
If you want to book a cheap flight when flying internationally, the best month to fly is in August.
Avoid Flying on the Weekends and in December to Save Money
Flights scheduled to take off on Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive in the world, particularly in the U.S.
The data show that travelers pay an estimated 3% more on Friday flights near 3 A.M.
It’s believed this is due to airlines managing their sales early in the workweek and finishing before the end of the week.
December is the most expensive month to fly because of the holidays and Christmas.
The average round-trip in the United States costs $360 in December and $279 in January.
Frequency of Flight Price Changes
Airfares frequently decrease on Monday nights or Tuesday mornings, but it’s not uncommon for them to change multiple times before the date of departure.
Sometimes, they will charge more for early bookings because they will have time to reduce fares if the plane is not full, and they need to sell more tickets closer to the date of departure.
So while we know how frustrating it can be, it’s possible flight prices can drop after you booked your flight.
Most airlines will decrease airfare prices until 4 four months before the departure date.
Ticket prices will generally remain lowest between 4 months and 3 weeks before the departure date, and then will increase 3 weeks before departure.
Airfare prices are at their highest on the date of departure.
Use Flight Booking Platforms to Find Cheaper Flights
One of the best ways to find cheaper flights and know when flight prices drop is to use a flight booking platform, such as Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak, and Expedia.
Not only do these flight aggregators collect information from various airlines and travel agencies to compare prices, flight durations, layovers, and other essential details across different carriers, but they also have a feature where you can be notified when flight prices drop for particular routes you are interested in – otherwise known as fare alerts.
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).