For many travelers on a budget, finding the cheapest way to fly can be a daunting challenge.
While the internet offers an abundance of theories on how to get the best deals, it is still easy to get lost in the confusion and fail to get the best possible deal.
One airline insider, however, has come forward to make it all simpler for us by saying what we probably knew all along: the cheapest fares are on days when fewer people are traveling.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Tim Lyons, American Airlines managing director of revenue management, revealed that booking a ticket in advance is not necessarily the most effective method in getting a lower fare cost. He said that if you avoid holidays, traveling mid-week or during off-peak seasons will usually mean the lowest rates.
Lyon explained that while tickets bought in advance can come with small discounts, it is generally the travelers’ demand to fly a route that dictates the cost of the flight fare.
Set according to longer term projections, airline schedules are prepared months in advance, setting the cost at a fixed rate. However, the clincher is when the airline decides to reduce prices to fill empty seats nearing the flight schedule, as ticket prices are usually changed several times day. The airline simply follows the level of demand a flight or route has for the day.
“In the end, the seats are going to fly,” Lyon said.
The objective of an airline is to “put the most revenue on the plane, regardless of [the] cost” of the route. He said the primary idea is to avoid “high demand” periods such as holidays.
“Travel in January, February, and September because those are the months airlines don’t have people traveling,” he advised.
Lyon’s idea makes sense even if it counters the usual advice of many online travel agents. Skyscanner, Kayak, CheapAir and other travel sites recommend buying tickets many days or weeks in advance. However, as Lyon pointed out, that factor alone may not yield the best results.