Book Early and Save: ARC on Air Cost Trends

Figure 1 (click to enlarge): Average Ticket Price vs. Advanced Purchase Days for Domestic Flights. Average ticket price changes very little between  100 and 50 days prior to departure. // Chart by ARC

Travelers purchased the least expensive airfares eight weeks in advance of their departure for U.S. domestic routes and 24 weeks in advance of departure for international destinations, according to research from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC). ARC studied air ticket purchases from January 2013 through July 2014.

At these points during any given 300-day advance purchase period throughout the 19 months examined, flyers paid 19 percent below the average fare of $496 for a domestic flight and 27 percent below the average fare of $1,368 for an international flight. Close to 130 million tickets worth $94 billion purchased in the U.S. were included in the study, ARC said.

Figure 2 (click to enlarge): Average Ticket Price vs. Advanced Purchase Days for International Flights. Average ticket price changes very little between 250 and 150 days prior to departure. // Chart by ARC

The findings update the research ARC released in January 2012 after examining ticket sales for 2011. ARC said that study found the least expensive domestic tickets were purchased six weeks prior to departure and were 5.8 percent below the average ticket price for 2011. That gap is now 19 percent based on the latest research. International tickets were not part of the 2011 study.

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ARC also said it discovered from its data that the least expensive air tickets were purchased on Sunday, regardless of a domestic or international destination. During the traditional Monday through Friday workweek, tickets bought on Tuesday were lowest.

“This latest study by ARC is significant because it reveals that not only have the lowest airfares shifted from six to eight weeks out for domestic travel, but the savings are markedly greater on a percentage basis,” said Chuck Thackston, managing director of enterprise information management at ARC. “It was also interesting to see that the data showed the least expensive tickets were purchased on a Sunday as opposed to Tuesday, which is a common belief."

“Air ticket pricing is dynamic and ARC isn’t advising anyone to purchase tickets only at these times during the sales cycle as there is no guarantee they will receive the lowest price; it is just what the data pattern indicates during the study period," Thackston said.

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