No, Tuesday Afternoon Isn’t the Secret Time to Buy Cheap Airfares. Why Do You Ask?

I can’t believe the myth about buying the cheapest tickets Tuesday afternoons persists. (HT: Alan H.)

Airline officials come to work on Monday and decide what airfares should be (based on how seats sold over the weekend). Tuesday morning, every airline finds out what competitors are charging for routes and they can start adjusting fares. All this settles down by the afternoon. So if you want to get a sale fare, “the best time is Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m.,” says FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney.

At least it’s not the old “after midnight” Tuesday night story because ‘that’s when untickted reservations expire’.

The idea that airlines are ‘deciding what fares should be’ based on weekend sales is strange enough. But to think it takes until the next day for competitors to react is equally strange given the frequency of Airline Tariff Publishing Company domestic data transmissions.

And even if this was true, the advice could equally be you’d better buy your tickets before Tuesday since prices could go up by then. There’s never any suggestion why new fare filings are necessarily discounts.

Here’s how to get the best airfare deals for the holidays and the advanced method to construct the cheapest fares.

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, 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. For JetBlue and Virgin America and Southwest, Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday evening, sometimes through Thursday evening, are the best times to buy. All the best sales, including Southwest’s semiannual sales, occur then. This has been the case for this entire century and more.

  2. JetBlue, Virgin America and Southwest usually file sale fares on the Monday night sub and the industry matches on Tuesday. If you are looking for off peak flights then shop on Tuesday. If you are looking for shoulder days then wait for a promo code since it’s off all rates. Obviously inventory also has a major impact but that impossible to predict.

    Shop early (but not too early) and often and just grab it when it looks decent.

  3. “Shop early (but not too early) and often and just grab it when it looks decent.”

    That is the best advice. And do your research to know what typical prices on the route are, so you know when it is close to “decent”. Yapta is good for monitoring prices, especially if you are looking far out where the prices haven’t really gotten realistic yet.

  4. At least for some European airlines Sunday afternoon (or the weekend in general) is/was the best time to book – on weekdays prices were higher, because the less price sensitive business travellers’ travel were booked then.

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