To save money on airline tickets, is it necessary to set your alarm for 3 a.m. on a Tuesday and do your research in private browsing mode? Or perhaps it’s Thursday at midnight while connecting to a VPN? It can be confusing! All these tips for finding the cheapest flight, widely shared on travel forums and contradictory from one source to another, are considered urban legends, according to Frédéric Pilloud, Marketing and E-commerce Director of the online travel agency MisterFly.
“The time and day of booking have no impact on the price you will ultimately pay,” he says. “It is entirely possible to find a cheaper ticket at night than during the day,” adds a spokesperson for the flight comparison website Skyscanner. “But if the price has dropped, it’s due to a hundred reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that you conducted your search at night.”
Prices fluctuate for hundreds of reasons
So, how can we explain the constant fluctuation of prices throughout the day, increasing one minute and decreasing the next? This phenomenon is explained by yield management, a complex pricing method that adapts, among other things, to demand and the number of searches, notes Frédéric Pilloud. “Companies can occasionally adjust their prices for many reasons, such as the occupancy rate or the fares offered by competitors.”
Furthermore, “each row of seats has a code and an attached price. As soon as it is booked, we move on to the next price range, and so on until the plane is full,” analyzes Frédéric Pilloud. If a ticket goes from €100 in the morning to €125 in the afternoon, it simply means that the price bracket has changed between the first and second searches. If the price increases, it is also due to our indecision. “Booking an airline ticket is quite anxiety-inducing. Travelers sometimes think for several days before determining the right dates and destination. Consequently, the purchasing process is lengthy, and it is logical for prices to increase between the initial searches and the final payment,” explains Frédéric Pilloud.
The only real tip: anticipation
The only universal rule that prevails in anticipation. “What matters is not so much the day and time of booking but the moment when you actually take the flight,” summarizes Frédéric Pilloud. Booking your ticket several months in advance, for example, in January for a summer departure or during the opening of sales, ensures that you will pay one of the lowest fares offered by airlines. However, booking too far in advance, for example, a year before departure, is not always a good plan, as airlines may adjust their fares downwards over the months.
Midweek departures, from Tuesday to Thursday, are generally cheaper than weekends. The months surrounding the summer holidays, namely June and September, are traditionally among the most affordable of the year. It’s a good reason to travel off-peak and avoid the peak periods of July and August. Other tips include signing up for airline newsletters to be informed about flash sales or setting up an alert on Algofly or Skyscanner to know when prices drop for the desired route and period.