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New Study: How Far Ahead You Should Buy a Flight for the Cheapest Prices in 2022

News Insider Guides Airports + Flying
by Olivia Harden Apr 1, 2022

There’s no doubt that flight prices are shooting up this spring, making it more essential than ever to know how to get the best flight deals. Perhaps you’ve heard about the best day to buy tickets and how far ahead you should make your purchase. But believes it’s simpler than that. The company conducted some data analysis to determine not only how many days before your flight you should look for the cheapest option, but also when to buy for the best seats on the plane.

The booking zones for buying airline tickets

  • First Dibs: 203 to 315 days in advance
  • Peace of Mind: 128 to 202 days in advance
  • Prime Booking Window: 21 to 127 days in advance
  • Push Your Luck: 14-20 days in advance
  • Playing with fire: seven to 13 days in advance
  • Hail Mary: zero to six days in advance

Six-and-a-half to 10 months in advance is the best time to buy a ticket for people who want the best seats: first class, business class, economy plus, exit rows — you get the idea. This range will cost you an average of $30 more than in the prime booking window, although this is way less than in previous years when booking this far in advance would cost you $100 or more extra. What the company calls the Peace of Mind window is four to six-and-a-half months in advance. You’ll save about $15 compared to booking in the First Dibs window, and there will likely still be good seats if you book here.

If all you’re looking for is the cheapest tickets, then make your purchase four months to three weeks in advance of your flight date. There are likely to be some decent seats available still, and you’ll save an average of $30. On average, the best day to get the cheapest flight is 76 days in advance.

If you wait to book two to less than three weeks in advance, you can bet that prices will have gone up an average of $30 — back to the cost of the First Dibs group, but without the benefits of great seats. Wait one week to less than two weeks in advance, and you’ve entered Playing with Fire territory where you can expect to pay an average of $90 more than if you had booked in the Prime Booking Window. And finally, the Hail Mary window: expect nothing better than middle seats and a mark-up of $150.

These mark-ups are less than what people saw pre-pandemic. And although the best days to buy seats are indeed the middle of the week, the difference only averages about $1. However, flying in the middle of the week on a Tuesday or Wednesday can save you an average of $57 more than the most expensive day to fly, which is Sunday.

To find the best flight windows, the study analyzed more than 917 million airfares in more than 8,000 markets across the United States for domestic flights. So the next time you fly, keep these windows in mind, and hopefully, you’ll save a good chunk of change.

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