Data Reveals Travelers Can Save 20% or More of Flight Costs by Booking on a Weekend

Staff Report

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

The 2019 Travel Pricing Outlook report, drawing on sophisticated analysis of Airlines Reporting Corporation's (ARC) global air- and Expedia Group's lodging-trend data, reveals timing matters when it comes to unlocking travel savings.

A checklist of ways to save on travel is timely, given ARC's analysis of airfare trends for the world's most popular domestic and international routes. The study found that average ticket prices (ATP) rose around 5% in 2018 (vs. 2017). If this trend continues, now may the best time to book 2019 travel.   

Time-based travel saving tips include:

  1. When it comes to lead time for booking flights, three weeks out is the sweet spot for savings.

  2. Wait until the weekend to book flights to unlock around 20% (or more) fare savings.

  3. Fridays are when the best hotel deals are snapped up.

  4. Start your journey on Thursday or Friday to save.

  5. Add a Saturday night to your mid-week trip to save up to 25% on airfares, sometimes more for popular business destinations.

Chuck Thackston, Managing Director of Data Science at ARC says that for around three-quarters of trips, quantifiable savings can be accessed by travelers who extend their weekday trip to include a Saturday night stay. "The savings opportunities by extending mid-week travel over a weekend is a new and valuable finding for travelers. The industry has talked about "bleisure" travel for a while, and we have been able to quantify real savings for travelers around this concept. It's something that people who love to travel should start to incorporate into their plans," said Mr. Thackston.

The report also analyzed influences on airfare pricing to help inform the decisions that keep travelers awake at night. Greg Schulze, Expedia Group's Senior Vice President, Commercial Strategy and Services explained that many people find it incredibly difficult and time consuming to make travel decisions: "Research tells us that travelers often make up to 50 searches before deciding on a flight. Our analysis of more than 50 billion flight searches can help all travelers in the hunt for the right flight at the right price," Mr. Schulze said.

Choosing between basic economy and other economy cabin fares
While travelers may save money by booking a basic economy fare (i.e., a fare with seat-only, no bag and potentially other limitations), it pays to choose carefully. If bags are added to a basic economy fare, the total cost of travel almost always exceeds that of other economy fares (i.e., where checked bags may be included in the price of the ticket).

Choosing between flights with and without stops
"We took a deep dive into direct versus connecting flights to myth-bust the idea that direct flights are always more expensive. Bottom line: They aren't. Lots of factors come into play when airlines set fares, so the time to connect and other convenience factors need to be considered when making your decision on the best flight for your trip," said Mr. Thackston.

Should travelers delay booking a trip if oil prices rise?
The short answer is no. When oil and/or airline fuel prices jump, travelers need not delay booking a trip based on the assumption that airfares will immediately rise. Comparing commodity price and ATP trends over many years shows the days and weeks after a commodity price jump may be the most cost-effective window to book flights, as any effect that fluctuation may have on ATPs is more likely to appear over a longer time.