After analyzing 1.3 billion airfares in 2015, CheapAir.com says the best time to book domestic flights is 54 days in advance. “Generally, a trip price starts off high, slowly drops and then starts to climb a few weeks before the flight,” explains Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com. “People ask all the time if it’s true that at the last minute the airlines have unsold seats that they practically ‘give away,’ but that’s rarely the case. Fares usually go up dramatically within 14 days of the flight.” To help travelers navigate the airfare market, CheapAir.com has divided the 11-month booking window into five “zones.”
First Dibs (197 – 335 days out): Travelers get their pick of flight times, nonstop options and seats. However, they pay an average of $50 more than during the “Prime Booking Window.”
Peace of Mind (113 – 196 days out): Travelers pay an average of $20 more per ticket than they would in the Prime Booking Window, but also have more flight options.
Prime Booking Window (21 – 112 days out): This is the zone for bargain hunters. Fares fluctuate a lot and travelers should check fares frequently and buy when a bargain pops up.
Push Your Luck (14 – 20 days out): Fares can vary dramatically. Depending on how full flights are, travelers may get a fantastic deal, or they may pay significantly more.
Hail Mary (0 – 13 days out): On rare occasions, the Hail Mary zone offers the best rate. However, 7-13 days out, travelers pay an average of $75 over the Prime Booking Window. 1-6 days in advance, that premium shoots up to $200.