Air Fares Revisited
August 13th, 2009

Air fare is confusing. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Prices change quickly, vary from source to source and there are a large number of potential myths surrounding when, where and how to book airfare. 


A reader recently posted several questions on one of my blogs regarding just this, and since I am sure she is not alone in her inquiries, I wanted to revisit the topic of booking airfares. 

1.  Does it matter what day of the week you book your flight. All of the “discount travel” experts on the talk shows say you should book on Wed to get the lowest fares. Is this really true?

This is a long-debated question. There are a lot of people who say book on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, or to book at midnight or some odd hour of the early morning. This may have some base in truth, however, with so many recent changes in the industry, these days it’s more about how far in advance you book, your destination, and the current cost of fuel which determines your price.

 My advice is to have an idea of what you want to spend on your flight. If you find it on your first try, book it! If you do not, watch it (or better yet have your travel planner watch it) over a week or so. If it doesn’t decrease, you can either wait and try again or book it. If it seems to be increasing, snag it – it will probably only go up from there. I always suggest not playing the odds – I’ve seen way too many clients end up paying more because they tried to wait for prices to decrease.

2. How far in advance should I book a domestic flight? It seems like anything too far and the flights are really expensive, but then if I wait the flights are booked up.

Airlines are decreasing their routes and number of flights between cities, which is causing a lot of full and over-booked flights.  Again, start checking early and when you if you find a price that is desirable, book it. I would say for domestic, book at least a two to three months out if possible. If you are flexible in your dates, many sites will compare prices within a span of several days so that you can choose the most affordable. 

For international flights, I recommend four to six months out. Most of these routes are flown once per day, if that, so flights fill up quickly. Even if the price decreases slightly, for most people it’s worth the few extra dollars to know that they’re on the flight!

3.  Am I better of booking my flight through one of the travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity? Or should I go directly to the airline website? Where am I likely to see the best prices and options?

To the discount travel sites – NO! What many people do not realize is that when you book through those sites, they become your travel “agent” (using the world very loosely). Therefore, if you need to make any changes, or if the flight itself changes at all, you cannot deal with the airline but must deal with the site’s call center, in which you are receiving the same impersonal service given to thousands of others who are also having flight trouble. In addition, they do in fact charge service fees, just as a travel planner would. So for those who want to book it themselves so that they don’t pay travel planner fees, they actually are! 

Airline websites have become more competitive in their pricing, especially for domestic routes. They are not a bad bet, and in this case you do have the power to deal with the airline. However, you then have the task of determining which airlines have the best routes and availability and comparing their pricing, times and services. 

Personally, and not just because I am one, I suggest dealing with a travel planner, especially if it’s a complicated itinerary (more than a quick round trip) or if you simply don’t have the time or energy to research various airlines, routes and price comparisons. This way you have a professional that can handle your booking as well as any issues or changes that arise, which saves you time and frustration. Again, it sometimes comes down to peace of mind. 

To learn more about air fare and other commonly asked questions, check out my blog Travel Myths – Fact or Fiction! 


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