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.

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. 

Crowd at a superbowl game
If you’re flying to the Superbowl, expect much higher price tickets

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.

Flight board at an airport showing cancelled flights
Flight cancellations can affect flight prices

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

Looking at historical flight ticket data can be a very useful way to better understand when ticket prices for a particular route will change.

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
  • Seasonality
analysis of flight price changes
Airlines regularly perform an analysis to determine flight prices

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.

A female tourist holding a camera and smiling

The cheapest month for international flights is August, which can be 20% cheaper than December due to the higher demand for flights, and therefore higher prices during the busy Christmas period. 

This trend is set to continue in 2023.

Flight Prices Dropping on Tuesday is a Myth

You may have heard that flight prices go down on Tuesdays, but is this just urban legend, or is there some truth to it?

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.

Generally, you can get a cheap flight if you book between 4 months and 3 weeks before the departure date, so last minute flights are not cheaper as some people seem to think.

Flight numbers on a board at an airport

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

Many people wonder if flight prices go up the more they 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.

a half-empty plane
Expect flights to be less busy during the weekdays

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.

A plane flying over a snowy mountainous region
Avoid flying in December to save money

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. 

Normally, airlines accept flight bookings 11 months before departure dates.

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).