Each year, more than 2.5 million passengers take to the domestic and international skies, the FAA notes—and most of them are on the hunt for reasonably priced tickets.
Whether it’s a frequent flier, or someone looking to purchase a last-minute trip out of town, conflicting theories abound over the best time to purchase the lowest airfares. Among the most popular are booking passages two months in advance—or even on Tuesday afternoons, if a popular travel myth is to be believed.
For those would-be travelers hitting up travel sites every Tuesday, recent data from airfare-prediction app Hopper suggested that strategy may be overrated at best.
Hopper collects around 15 billion data points everyday—including prices, destinations and flight times. It analyzed 11,000 routes worldwide that had a popularity of at least 1,000 searches per week, and found Tuesdays at midnight were ideal for purchasing cheap tickets. That said, the savings were only applicable with less than 2 percent of routes.
“In the past, there used to be more human intervention where managers could create flash sales, often on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper, told Bloomberg in a widely circulated interview recently.
However, not only do you have to select the right route at the stroke of midnight for lowest fares, you’ll only save about six-percent, or $18 on average for domestic flights, Surry told the publication. “It’s not necessarily a big win to wait up until Tuesday at midnight to try and shop for your ticket.”
With armies of computers managing airfare prices in response to demand, travel experts say there really is no magic day or hour. As a result, your chance of shopping on a Tuesday when airlines decide to put your route on sale is highly unlikely.
“Logically if there were a magic number, everyone would buy on that day. All those cheap seats would be sold out, or the airlines would say, ‘oh, we have high demand, let’s raise our prices,” said George Hobica, Founder of Airefarewatchdog.com
So how should travelers score the best flight deals? It’s tough to come up with a rule of thumb about when to buy tickets when prices are dependent on several variables. Those include specific routes, demand, season, and the day of travel.