What’s the Best Moment to Buy a Plane Ticket?

What’s the Best Moment to Buy a Plane Ticket?

The best moment to book a flight is eight weeks before leaving.

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A Japanese economist has studied the mathematics used by air companies to set the prices of flights. According to his research, eight weeks before departure is the ideal timing to buy a travel ticket.

The best moment to book a flight is eight weeks before leaving. Dr. Makoto Watanabe is a Japanese economist, currently Associate Professor at the VU University Amsterdam, and he has just developed a mathematical formula to predict the best moment to buy airplane tickets. His research, published on the Economic Journal may help millions of passengers ready to fly to save up some money before leaving.

The purchase of tickets is a dilemma for most people. If one buys a ticket much in advance, one may have to change it if some unforeseen event occurs, which means spending more money. And if one buys it right before departure one risks spending much more money than expected. Dr. Watanabe seems to have the best answer to invest best money and time, when one prepares to fly.

Flight tickets, the economist explains, are cheaper in the afternoon than in the morning. According to him, air companies suppose that in the morning businessmen buy their tickets while they are working at the office. On the other hand, it is more probable that those people who travel for pleasure are willing to purchase their flights for their dream destinations in the afternoon.

To obtain his solution and estimating in eight weeks the best moment to plan a travel, Dr. Watanabe used a system of complicated equations, where the variable representing the profit varies depending on how  much in advance one buys a ticket. Some weeks before the flight, Dr. Watanabe explains, the price of tickets drops because companies want to sell the remaining seats with the aim of convincing those clients who prefer to buy their tickets right before the flight.

The estimates of the Japanese economist are on the same line of earlier studies: a research from 2001 on airplane tickets conducted on12 different US destinations showed that postponing the purchase of a ticket of one day makes the price increase by only 0.1%, with respect to the average costs. A research from 2004 on flights departing from the French airport of Nice showed that the average price of a flight increases in average 12.7% in the last 22 days from departure.

Some empirical checks seem to confirm the eight-week theory of Dr. Watanabe. An airplane ticket from London (Stansted) to Munich is priced 101.7 euros one day before the flight, and it is in the following progression in the earlier weeks:

one week = 121.30 euros,
two weeks = 77.20 euros,
eight weeks = 24.50 euros,
twelve weeks = 31.90 euros

Marc Moller and Makoto Watanabe (2009). ADVANCE PURCHASE DISCOUNTS VERSUS CLEARANCE SALES The Economic Journal DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0297.2009.02324.x

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Simone Munao

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