“The Best Time To Book Airline Tickets is Wednesday at 1am”

This article is about two months old, but I saw it for the first time linked to on social media on Sunday.

Peter Greenberg offers his sage advice on when to find the cheapest airfare.

His advice?

There is a specific time to to book your airline tickets: Wednesday at 1 am, just one hour after Tuesday midnight.


Why does the esteemed Mr. Greenberg think this?

Turns out, most low airfares seem to appear between Sunday night and Monday night. And then, when people find those fares, they have 24 hours in which to purchase them. At midnight Tuesday, all the discount fares that weren’t purchased come flooding back into the airline’s computer systems. And that’s when you strike.

Oh, it gets better.

You can’t do this online…you need to have a conversation with a human being at the airline.

I’m not even going to go through the myriad errors in these statements. I’m going to leave it up to my readers to do it.

What errors can you identify in these two passages? How many errors can you spot? And can you concoct an equally (im-)plausible story for why it’s actually better to book tickets at 3:15am on Friday? A prize will go to the best answer.

Sadly I’ve written about Peter Greenberg and what he does – and does not – understand about travel before.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. First error I see is if you reserve it on Sunday night the fare would be back in the system early Tuesday morning and not Wednesday as he is stating per the 24 hour rule.

    calling an agent usually adds fees

  2. Obviously the best time to book is Friday at 3:15 am. It is after last call (in many cities), so most of the drunks will have “drunk purchased” their air fare. In their drunken stupor they will have clicked on the full fare economy. This means the airlines can throw some super cheap economy seats for the masses to buy.

    No worries about any 24 cancellation policies messing things up. The drunks won’t remember they purchased the tickets 🙂

  3. I would strongly recommend you head over to Guam before booking any tickets, as it’s 1 AM there before it’s 1 AM anywhere else

    You have a head start on the rest of the world, and if you miss out, you still have enough time to fly to HNL for 1 AM there

  4. Oh, this is easy.

    Each airline owner owns a pet chimpanzee. (this is not known to many people).

    Chimps are like humans, they enjoy getting a treat every so often (like coffee, chocolate, salty pretzels, etc)

    Once they feed their chimp the weekly treats, which usually occur on Sunday or Monday nights, they are really happy, because their pet chimp is happy.

    Everyone knows that a happy chimp owner is more likely to be generous, and this generosity translates into the desire to give people good deals, like cheaper round trips on their airline.

    Like Scotty mentioned before me, there is a 24 hour hold rule. Thus the best deals can be made by Tuesday.

  5. This is just a big liberal conspiracy! They want the airlines selling cheap tickets on Wednesday morning because that’s when Kenyan Muslims need cheap airfare.

  6. Isn’t this actually slightly true (I almost worked at the united airline ticket pricing office)?

    Tuesday midnight is when many airlines release a batch of updates to their ticket prices. Assume that cheaper tickets on average sell out slightly faster than more expensive ones. If you check just after this update then on average you will see slightly higher fraction of cheap fares relative to checking at some random other day of the week.

    That said, you actually have to look at the fare you are getting, some may be higher and some may be lower than the average price for that flight.

  7. I’m more than happy to divulge the mistakes, I just can’t do it online. Call me and we’ll talk about the myriad ways Greenberg sucks.

  8. Obviously, the best day/time to book an airline ticket is the THIRD new moon of each month. For the uninitiated, Earth now revolves around Jupiter, which is why there are 5 lunar cycles in 30 days. Every new moon, computer systems all over the galaxy reset, with airline tickets and stock prices resetting to the nadir for that century (FYI, a new “century” is only 5 Earth days). Phshhh!

  9. Obviously, he was trying to prove the old adage— “you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time.” In this particular case, he was addressing the latter part of this adage. There has been a lot of this going around lately. Today there was a piece on the Malaysia plane that said, it could not have been hijacked because it would still have been on radar. If it had been attacked by a missile, the missile would have been tracked. Therefore, since there is no trace of the plane and it just vanished, the only remaining possibility was that the plane was abducted by aliens.

    Thank you for posting this piece Gary, it has been a long day and I needed the relief from the humdrum.

  10. 3:15am….HMMMMM, does anyone remember the movie “AMITYVILLE HORROR” This has nothing to do with travel. All the murders occurred at 3:15am. So I guess if you book at 3:15am, you’re still kicking!!! Just don’t book a flight to Long Island. Now that I’ve given you that little trivia tid-bid, what do I win?

  11. Why wait until fares are ‘reissued’ to buy, why not buy when the discount fares first appear? Seems like Mr Greenberg has been hanging out with Kathy Lee and Hoda too much…

  12. What you really need to do with this distinguished gentleman is to invite him to FTU and to be on a panel “What’s My Line” Could be very comedic for attendees and other panelists……….sorta gives you a cold headache pondering the outcome………

  13. Main error seems to be that the writer forgot to remove his head from his backside before composing the article. Lack of oxygen can really mess with your reasoning skills.

  14. Gary, I’ve always found that 1:07 a.m. on Wednesday is the best time. That’s when the rejected fares from the second discount offering flood the market….he’s so off base!

  15. Everyone knows Friday at 3:15am is the absolute best time. Just ask Mr. Greenbuhh….oh, wait.

  16. 3:15am on a Friday is the best time to book a ticket (note: This is 3:15am UTC, or Universal Coordinated Time). Why? Because this corresponds to 5:15pm at the International Dateline (UTC+14).

    Back when the airlines were designing more sophisticated revenue management computer algorithms in the 80s, they knew that businesses were most likely to pay higher fares, so they designed a “5 day business day window” which corresponded to the typical 9-5 business week. They designed them to load the highest fares at 9am on Monday and ended them at 5pm on a Friday. However, the programmers had to pick a starting point, and so they picked the starting point as the time at the International Date Line, so that the very first cities to experience the new business day would start buying the new fares.

    At 5pm on Friday at the International Date Line, these 5-day window of higher fares expires, and the leisure fares are reloaded. It takes time to propagate through the system, so 5:15pm (or 3:15am UTC) is a good guideline to make sure all the business fares have expired.

  17. Little known fact, here’s what’s happening in the airline offices Fridays at 3:14:30am:

    Okay, airline fare prices have been dropping all night, which means that everybody is waiting for it to hit rock bottom, so they can buy cheap and go long. Which means that the people who own the airlines are going batsh*t, they’re thinking, “Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip! And my wife ain’t gonna f… my wife ain’t gonna make love to me if I got no money!” So they’re panicking right now, they’re screaming “SELL! SELL!” ‘cos they don’t wanna lose all their money, right? They’re panicking out there right now, I can feel it.

    And that’s why airfares are cheapest on Fridays at 3:15am. It has nothing to do with the following link (for those who don’t get it…)


  18. Why book tickets at 3:15am?

    Easy; 3:14am is way too early and 3:16am is way too late…sheesh, I need to start a travel blog.

  19. OK, seriously. What USA airline now allows you to “hold” a revenue airline reservation? I don’t know if there are any tricks a travel agency can still do, but what leisure travelers are using those these days?

    Even if there were some seats “un-purchased,” I have no reason to believe they’d return to the fare bucket they came from.

    And I’m not sure what going speaking to an agent is going to do you on finding that inventory. All it’s going to do in incur a telephone ticketing fee.

  20. Wow — as a UA 1K, that seems unimaginable to me in 2014. 🙂 But I did just hold an AA award reservation for 5 days so I guess they’re still “old school.”

    Something tells me that Parker and Kirby will be putting a stop to this ASAP. And, honestly, if you can cancel within 24 hours for a full refund, that’s really “fair enough.”

  21. So many business travelers fly on Thursday nights and need to book their upcoming trips. They don’t trust the connection speeds on GoGo so they refuse to pay for it.

    BUT, GoGo lets these folks get to the airline website for free, so they have nothing else to do on their flights other than look at their upcoming flights. Inevitably, some of these tickets have been booked incorrectly and need to be changed or cancelled.

    Thus, at 3:15am Friday morning, having seen business travelers cancel their tickets since the evening bank of flights began, the airline fare masters panic and release tons of cheap inventory.

  22. This Greenberg is a real liability. Think of all the people out there who read his nonsense and believe it. It saddens me. Thank you for calling him out Gary.

  23. Friday at 3:15 is perfect because the airlines have purchased my “Three Little Known Facts to Sell Anything to Anybody”. In this just-disclosed document, you’ll learn the hidden rhythms underneath a persons decision to buy. Yet they are rarely conscious of these wallet- opening forces at work.

    You’ll learn how harnessing the power of these secret patterns in buyer behavior can lead to surprising explosive sales just as before with products such as Time Life Books, collectible plates from the Franklin Mint, and Scott’s Turfbuilder 2.0.

    This document reveals the lifelong research of Crimean psychologist Dr. Arya Putin. Yes! You can learn about the new field of Behavioral Selling that has made Putin and his tiny inner circle spew wealth. You can’t afford to be ignorant any longer. Beat the airlines at their own game watch your wealth grow.

  24. Well, let me count. (1) discount fares, if they are indeed “issued” on Sunday or Monday stick around until they are discontinued or until the discount fare buckets get depleted; (2) “1 a.m. Wednesday” does not particularly identify just what time zone Mr. Greenberg is talking about – if he is talking East Coast time, this would mean 10 pm on the West Coast; (3) Tickets in discount fare buckets do not “return” if not purchased, if one is lucky they stay there until the revenue management algorithms kick in, but in no way do they flood back in; (4) Thinking that, at 1:00 a.m., one will find a call in agent who can find discount fares which are not available online (or any agent at all) is preposterous; and (5) there is simply no way that, at 1:00 am, I am going to break away from QVC and infomercials to call any airline or even make time to book online.

  25. A little-known feature of the newly available smart watches is their ability to speed up time relative to the wearer. While I experience 25 hours between midnight Tuesday and 1 am Wed., only one hour passes for Greenberg. The other advantage: getting to speed through the 24 hour window that the leprechaunish low fares are initially available (that’s what he said, right? you know, between Sunday and Monday night, or what I like to call Monday) and gaining the opportunity to brush up on my practice of prayer as I wait for a non-robot to pick up the phone at 1 am, while most humans like myself are asleep.

  26. what’s the strategy to be fist to get the Wednesday 1 AM tickets? I am writing this down
    I will set my alarm clock
    let the savings roll!

  27. 3:15am on Friday is clearly the best time, but only on the east coast. Everyone knows that all computers live in the silicon valley, so 3:15 is just after midnight computer-time. And these computers control all the airline availability. What most people don’t know is that computer programmers in silicon valley like to go out partying on Thursday night. So they always set the backups to run Thursday before leaving the office, knowing they won’t be in until late on Friday morning and so there will be plenty of time for this backup to run. As the backups process seat reservations they come across some seats that were booked and then canceled. These open seats get loaded back into the system at whatever was the lowest price released for seats of that fare class. There aren’t very many of these seats so you must call in as close to midnight computer-time as possible. Set your alarms for 3:15am PST (or midnight if you are lucky enough to live in computer-time).

  28. Best time to score a fare due to software/application error…
    Sunday @4-6am CT (AA/UA) or EST for DL, usually local zone of the IT dept location. Most IT operations take effect Sunday between midnight and 4-6am, that is standard for patches, upgrades, new releases etc. Any code error that was not tested thoroughly will pop up around that time.

    Fare errors can happen anytime that a fare batch is introduced. No timing, but usually seen on Tuesday at 5pm. No science here. Good luck…

  29. So I stumbled upon this posting while chasing down the Greenberg article to see if it was true, but the thing is, if there’s some inside intel I don’t understand it. Besides teh very obvious fact that you hate this guy, how do I know the info is wrong??

  30. @Amy K – let’s walk through Greenberg’s claims.

    “Turns out, most low airfares seem to appear between Sunday night and Monday night.”

    What possible warrant is there for this claim?

    International airfares are loaded every single hour during the business week. Domestic fares four times per day.

    See http://www.atpco.net/atpco/products/trans_sched_as.shtml

    “And then, when people find those fares, they have 24 hours in which to purchase them.”

    This doesn’t match reality. Almost all fares are instant purchase fares. Most discount fares are purchased online. Customers generally have 24 hours to cancel, not to book (although American will allow 24 hour holds).

    “At midnight Tuesday, all the discount fares that weren’t purchased come flooding back into the airline’s computer systems.”

    Again, discount fares are instant purchase. Generally only full fare tickets might be held but those aren’t the discount ones you’re interested in.

    “You can’t do this online…you need to have a conversation with a human being at the airline.”

    Why can you only buy these mythical fares by phone, that makes no sense at all.

    Here’s when to buy the cheapest airline tickets http://viewfromthewing.com/2014/03/02/find-cheapest-airfare/

  31. ugh waah I don’t HAVE 54 days. My mom got sick and I have to get us back east and I’m stuck with these crazy summer fares. And I just want some magic bullet trick! so of course my ears pricked up when I heard this story! there’s no free lunch, I guess. DERP.

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