New research from Airlines Reporting Corp. and Expedia makes the case that the tough parameters of business travel have made weekdays a bad time to book trips. Instead, the study recommends Saturday or Sunday—though not everyone’s convinced.
If you’re looking to buy a plane ticket to your next big event, you might want to wait until either Saturday or Sunday, a few weeks out.
No, really. That’s the advice that the travel-industry research firm Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) is offering as part of a new report, New Heights for Air Travel, that was conducted with Expedia.
Its report [PDF] studied air ticket prices (ATPs) globally and found that the middle of the week, traditionally considered the best day, isn’t such a great time to book. A big reason for this, per the report, is actually related to business travelers.
“Generally speaking, weekends still have the lowest ATPs and Fridays have the highest. According to analysts, this phenomenon is driven largely by business travelers, who make most of their big-ticket purchases at the end of every week,” the report stated. “However, even when we normalize the data to remove the effect of business versus leisure travel, the weekend is still cheaper.”
The report also found it was still important to book more than 21 days in advance, that bundling remained a recommended strategy, and that the best time to stay in a hotel or other venue is a Saturday night, when the rates are lowest.
In comments to the Philadelphia Inquirer, ARC Managing Director of Enterprise Information Chuck Thackston explained that the nature of business travel booking often led to higher prices because of the need to book trips at the last minute.
“Business travelers booking at the last minute, those fares will typically be higher,” Thackston told the newspaper. “Airlines are aware that leisure travelers are looking on the weekends, so they’ll make those fares available on the weekend.”
But not everyone’s convinced. In the Inquirer piece, ETA Travel President Jeffrey Erlbaum and Airfarewatchdog.com Founder George Hobica expressed skepticism about ARC’s day-of-the-week findings.
“As far as Sunday being the best day to buy tickets, that’s nonsense,” Hobica argued. “An incredibly low fare can be snuck into the reservation systems any day of the week in terms of booking.”
But one area where Erlbaum and Hobica generally agree with the report is on the point that average ticket prices are going down—per ARC, at a rate of 5 percent for an economy round-trip flight. Erlbaum said that this standard isn’t consistent, however.
“Competition plays a major role. The legacy carriers—American, Delta, United—do not compete as much on fares as if Southwest or JetBlue is flying,” Erlbaum added.
But even with the potential inconsistencies in the trend, Expedia’s Greg Schulze, the company’s senior vice president of commercial strategy and services, was bullish.
“For today’s traveler, this confluence of circumstances—more planes, lower prices, more destinations—is exceptional,” Schulze said in a news release.