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Is There a “Best Time: for Sports Event Planners to Book Airline Seats?

25 Aug, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Most sports event planners (especially those who are frequent flyers) will tell you they have some kind of magic formula for finding the lowest fares. Always shop on a Tuesday, they say. Always shop on the airline’s own Web site rather than a travel aggregator’s site, and you won’t pay a middleman. Book exactly 57 days prior to your trip. Cross your fingers, light some incense and book when the moon is full. (Some of the formulas make less sense than others.) It’s probably all futile. Experts say that changes to the way airlines run their business mean that most “cheap ticket tricks” are largely useless.

"There isn't a golden rule anymore," Patrick Scurry, chief data scientist for Hopper, a travel-information firm that archives ticket prices, recently told the Associated Press. "There are these 'average' rules, but they're not that useful necessarily for a specific trip."

The truth is that “best time to book” varies by whether you’re traveling domestic or international, which airline you’re using and what kind of seats you hope to buy. If you’re a solid “Tuesday booker” because you think you’re getting the best deals on that day, you may want to consider switching to booking on a Sunday.

“As for the best day to shop for travel, the accepted answer for many years was Tuesday because that is when airlines often announced advertised sales,” wrote the AP. “Expedia Inc. says for tickets bought at least 21 days in advance, Tuesday is still cheapest by a thin margin over Wednesday, but Sunday is better for tickets bought within 21 days of travel — an average savings of $12, or 2.2 percent, over buying on Saturday or Tuesday, according to Expedia.”

In fact, pricing has become so unpredictable and arbitrary with many airlines, that travel experts recommend that bargain hunters check every day for new deals on airfares. A lot of sales happen on the weekends (when people aren’t keeping a close eye on their usual travel Web sites), and the sales are often very quick…as in, over in just a few hours. Virgin America often has “flash sales” during which they warn customers about the sale in advance, but the prices themselves are available only for a few hours.  

Experts say it’s important to know what the average fares are for the route you’re hoping to book, so you can recognize when a good deal pops up (and be sure to count all those extra charges that airlines are so fond of today). True bargain hunters should consider using apps on some travel Web sites that will send them a notification if a desired airfare drops below a certain price threshold. And just because you’ve bought a ticket recently doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it if you see a better deal.

“If you buy a ticket and see the same flight for less the next day, call the airline,” according to the AP article. “Federal rules require that airlines give consumers a refund if they cancel a ticket within 24 hours and the flight is at least a week away.”

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