Booking Your Flight a Year Ahead May Not Be the Wisest Option

Find out when's the best time to buy plane tickets.

cheap plane tickets
ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) "When is the best time to book a flight?" is one of the most frequently asked questions among those who want to make the most out of their travel budget. Many think that booking a flight twelve months or more before their intended travel dates can eventually save them a lot of money. Some say you need to book your flight during the wee hours of the morning. Based on personal experiences: This can be true…or not. 

Also read: It's Not a Bus: Here's Why the Back Seats of a Plane Are Best 

When to Buy Cheap Plane Tickets

It depends on many factors and a complex formula to determine when is the best time to purchase that flight ticket. 

Each airline has its prime booking window. This differs in the type of air carrier (full-service airlines versus low-cost carriers), destination (domestic, regional, or international), time of the year, and even the economy. 

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The prime booking window follows a complex algorithm that factors in (among many things) fuel and oil prices, the current global economy, prevailing ticket prices of their competitors, booking projections, and airline historical data. The algorithm is too complex that nobody can really tell when seat prices will go down for a particular airline and route. 

As a general rule when booking flights: It should not be too early or too late.

During the off-peak season—which is after summer and just after the start of the school year in the Philippines (from June to October), booking a domestic flight from one to three months before the intended date of travel is ideal. It is during this rainy-season timeframe when airlines expect fewer people to travel—with the next peak season happening from November to January in time for the Christmas holidays. 

When planning for international travel, it is safe to purchase your next flight ticket from two to nine months before your intended travel date. Of course, you should also consider if it is peak or off-peak season during your travel dates as it will directly affect the airlines’ pricing schemes. 

You need a combination of patience, research skills, and a little bit of luck to grab the most awesome airline seat deals. 

How to Know the Best Airline Deals

And if trying to guess the algorithm is too beyond, you can always check out sites that will, at the very least, compare prices for you. There are a couple of them online but when asked for recommendations for websites to check on the best airline fares, I always recommend Momondo. Using Momondo is simple: key in your intended flight details (travel dates, origin, and destination) then the website will provide an unbiased and comprehensive list of airlines and flight options vis-à-vis total travel time and cost. 

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As an aggregator (and not as a booking website), Momondo does the searching for you across more than a thousand airlines (even the small and never-heard ones), booking and travel agency websites, and search engines without adding fees. Think of Momondo as the Google for cheap flights. And no, the booking will not be done from within the Momondo website—it is just a search engine; it will redirect you to the booking website once you've decided which flights to take. 

Robert "Bob" Reyes is an AvGeek (aviation enthusiast), planespotter (an AvGeek who loves taking photos of planes), and technologist (who represents the global non-profit Mozilla in the Philippines). He spent more than two decades of his life as an aviation support professional for a conglomerate and CTO of an aviation college.

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