Have you ever wondered why airline fares are constantly changing? I’m here to explain how their pricing system works and hopefully you can use this knowledge to save some money during your next trip.
Most travelers are aware of the advance purchase fares. Typically (but not always), airlines will have a 3-day, 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day advance fare. The further in advance you purchase the ticket, the lower the price can be. However, be careful because these fares tend to be non-refundable and carry a penalty fee to make changes. Also, don’t be surprised if you are shopping for a ticket 2 weeks in advance but aren’t getting the 14-day advance purchase rate. I will explain more about this later.
Day of the Week
The day of the week you wish to travel can also impact the price. I’ve seen many fares for travel on specific days. For example, if you depart on a Saturday and return on a Thursday then you may save over departing on a Friday. It is always best when you can be slightly flexible with your travel dates. You can save by leaving or returning a day earlier or later.
Some fares are lower if you have a minimum stay of 3 days or if you stay over a Saturday night. Again, this is where having a flexible travel schedule comes in handy. Also, if you’re planning a day trip, you may check to see if spending the night and coming home the next day saves enough to cover the cost of a hotel room and keep some money in your pocket. Same day travel can be very pricey.
Why Fares Fluctuate
You could apply all of the cost savings tips above and still not see a decrease in fare. Or you may see one ticket at a lower price, but if you change the number in your party, then the price sky rockets.
This is because the airlines only designate so many seats at each price. Each fare has a code associated with it called a fare basis. The fare basis starts with a letter that corresponds to a “bucket” which has a set amount of tickets available at each price. This means, that even if you are trying to purchase a ticket 21 days in advance, you may not get the 21 day advance fare if all of the tickets in that bucket have already been purchased.
Say an airline designates 10 tickets to be sold at the 21-day advance fare. If all of those 10 tickets have been sold, then you won’t be able to get that fare. Similarly, if there is only one ticket left at that price and you are looking for a party of 2, then you may not see that fare offered as the pricing systems default to the lowest fare available to a party of 2.
Sometimes the airlines will add tickets to a bucket or people may cancel their tickets and you will see the price go down. However, I wouldn’t count on this happening.
The best advice I can give is to be flexible with your travel dates and chances are, you may be able to find a lower fare.