Much folklore and mystery has grown around the purchasing of online airline tickets: weekdays are cheaper (but which ones?), don’t buy too early (but how early is too early?), airlines discount tickets to fill seats (but when exactly?).

Two professional economists, Yuriy Gorodnichenko at UC California, Berkeley, and Volodymyr Bilotkach of Newcastle University, have analyzed ticketing data and airline pricing strategies to help you get the best deal on future purchases. Their knowledge will also help relieve you of the fear that you’re buying too early, or too late.

Airlines have a contradictory purpose: they want to fill as many seats as possible to make the operating costs of each flight as low as possible, but they also depend on ticket sales to make profit. That results in a dizzying strategy of timing discounts to meet the pricing needs of every individual flight.

Gorodnichenko and Bilotkach say to follow these two basic rules for purchasing flights online:

1. Don't buy more than two months in advance of your flight.

2. Don't wait more than two weeks before your departure to buy.

At the two month mark, airlines begin discounting tickets to fill seats. At the two/three week mark, business travelers begin booking, who are willing to pay a premium. Airlines know this so they tend to incrementally raise prices until the departure date.

Read more at the Atlantic

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