Where is the airline's sweet spot?

Every year, the air travel experts come out with when is the best time to buy a ticket. Some even have it down to the day of the week and the hour of the day. The experts vary a bit. Common agreement is, an international air should be bought months before a domestic ticket. At the bottom are the links to the articles and you can compare what each one says and come up with a plan.


What I want to share with you is what I see as a travel advisor.

Choices that can affect your trip in relation to when you book your air.

Do you buy your air or your land/cruise arrangements first? Well that can depend. Most of the time, I recommend working out your land or cruise itinerary first. I had clients come to me with air fare bought round trip to Madrid, yet they wanted to include Barcelona. It made their planning constrained and they lost time and flexibly because they had to start and end in Madrid.

What if your travel advisor comes up with a better idea and now you have to let that go because you have an airline ticket that doesn’t match where you want to go or the time you need in the destination? Those change fees can add up.

I had a client looking at cheap air to Italy. Fortunately, she hadn’t bought the ticket. We came up with a different itinerary and a very good fare, that included premium economy on her return. If she had bought the “deal”, she would have had to pay a lot in fees to change her ticket and wouldn’t have the upgrade we got for her.

What about using points? Airline schedules come out 330 days before departure. That’s the earliest anyone can book a flight. If you know you are going someplace and are certain of your dates, you can snag those business class seats that may be scarcer later. The nice thing about miles is, if you have to change or cancel, the fees are much less and you can put your miles back in your account.

Should you book air through a cruise line? That depends. Some cruise lines have great contracts with their air partners and some don’t. You need to have an idea of what the published fare is, then you can compare. I had a group on a river cruise. The people that booked their air early, saved $1000 or more on business and premium economy air, than those that waited or booked later. These companies buy air wholesale or have contracts. They are allotted a certain amount of air in each fare basis. Once they sell that, it goes up to the next basis.

What about discounts? Sorry but there are no discounts on economy tickets. If you catch a sale or can find a ticket at a lower fare basis, that’s the best you can do. However, if you are in the market for premium economy, business or first class, then many times, a good travel professional, can save you money off the published fare. Airlines will offer deals to select travel partners.

Do itineraries matter? Of course, they do. Sometimes non-stops are less and sometimes they are more. The biggest mistake I see with clients, is not enough time between flights. International flights need a minimum of 2 hours to change planes, more is better. Often, you will see a cheap ticket with a one-hour connection. Chance of you making that flight, on an international connection, is very slim. It’s okay for domestic flights, but not international. Coming home, you also need time when you land in the US to go through passport control. If you don’t have enough time you, can miss your connecting flight home. Not only do you have to recheck your bags, you may have to change terminals and go through security, to get that last leg home.

Here are all the links to what the experts say. Just remember a good travel advisor can save you a lot of anguish and dollars, by making sure you have the best flight possible.There is more to a good ticket than just price.

Wishing you uneventful flights!!!

Skyscanner, Nerd Wallet, Farecompare, The Points Guy, Travel & Leisure

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