By Paige Green

When it comes to cheap holidays and scoring budget basement prices on flights, a recent article in the Economist highlighted some of the best times to purchase cheap flights. According to Scott McCartney, the best time to purchase flights was mid week about 8 weeks before departure.

How airline pricing works

We’ve probably all experienced it, you book in your tickets for your dream holiday only to check prices a week a later and realise you could have saved a hundred dollars or more if you’d waited a few extra days. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason since the product we’re paying for is exactly the same!

The mathematics behind it, as determined by airline computer software focuses on two goals:

  1. Reduce the number of empty seats on any flight
  2. Maximise the total net revenue for flight

A third consideration for any airline is to encourage customer loyalty and move passengers away from other carriers.

With these goals in mind, airline ticket prices vary from day to day and even hour to hour. The process of finding the cheapest fare between any two destinations considering all the parameters used in pricing is, according to some expert mathematicians, an intractable problem – in that no solution can be produced in any finite amount of time!

What you can do

While finding the absolute cheapest price seems impossible, there are certainly a few overarching “rules” on airline pricing that consumers can use to book a cheap flight:

  1. Buy midweek – in most instances, prices are more competitive in the middle of the week than on the weekend because of a lower demand for ticket bookings. Sales and discounts are also timed to be released midweek and expire by Thursday or Friday.
  2. 8 Week rule? – economist Makoto Watanabe has reported that timing your ticket purchase 8 weeks before departure is the most likely time to find cheaper flights.
  3. Keep an eye out for deals – meanwhile, social media is transforming the deal and discount landscape. Competitors are able to find out about and respond to price changes more readily and discounts can quickly be publicized en masse. As a result, many sales and special rates are sold out quite quickly so it’s important to act fast once you get wind of a bargain.

Travellers should also keep in mind that while the price of flights are determined with a more complex  formula, hotel deals for accommodation are a little more predictable. While you may find a few bargains for last minute accommodation, the overarching rule is to book earlier especially if you’re planning to travel for special events and peak travel times. For example, if you’ll be at the Fringe Festival looking for cheap accommodation – Adelaide hotels will be fairly booked out. Bear in mind that some hotels may allow you to cancel reservation up to a certain time with no penalty, which means that in theory you can keep an eye out for deals once you’ve made your reservation.

[This is a guest post.]

Paige Green writes for Quickbeds.com, to find Townsville accommodation or hotel bargains in Sydney – visit their website.