BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – On any given summer day, nearly 100 passenger jets fly out of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Some of the passengers, like Britney Gonzalez, got good deals on their tickets.
“I got a trip to Vegas for under $500 for a week. So that was real good,” Gonzalez said.
Others weren’t so lucky.
“Yeah. Cost me a pretty penny,” traveler Emily Parent said.
It is a question air travelers have been obsessing over for years: How many weeks before your flight is the best time to buy your tickets?
Most people think they have an answer.
Amanda Chase suggested, “Usually about four months in advance, at the least.”
But Charlie Spence said, “Two months. Two to three months.”
Jerome Summers thought the answer was, “Two weeks. Yeah, two weeks in advance.”
Jeff Klee, the CEO of cheapair.com has hard numbers to find the answer. His company specializes in helping people buy tickets at the right time.
“That’s the number one question we get asked,” Klee said.
The company performed a staggering study, monitoring the prices of more than four million flights at airports across the country from the day the tickets became available until the day the flight departed.
On average nationwide, he found the the cheapest time to buy your plane ticket is 54 days before your flight. Looking deeper at the numbers, he says they found a window in which you will almost always find the best price.
CheapAir.com specializes in helping people buy tickets at the right time
Yapta.com was used to track flights for this story
“We found there is sort of this ‘prime booking’ window. From about one month to three months in advance. And depending on where you’re going and what time of year, usually your best fare is going to be inside of that window,” Klee said.
News 4 wanted to find out the best time to book flights out of Buffalo. So in March, using the website yapta.com, we tracked every flight it allowed, departing on June 27. On average, the best price came much earlier than the nationwide average – 81 days – more than 11 weeks before the flight.
Taking a closer look, four of the destinations – Atlanta, Detroit, Washington Dulles and Minneapolis – never dropped in price after tracking began.
The destinations that fluctuated the most were Philadelphia, Charlotte and Orlando. They hit the low price at 33 days and 20 days before takeoff.
To double-check News 4’s local findings, Klee pulled the data on Buffalo from his study and found it was very similar. He found the best price from Buffalo on average, 83 days before the flight.
“So, booking a little bit earlier, which makes sense because there is less capacity out of Buffalo, so the lower fares tend to sell out quickly,” Klee said.
The highest prices for every flight, by far, came within the the last week before takeoff.
Now that more tools are available online to find the best price, more of the people News 4 talked to at the airport are getting pretty savvy and using them.
“I use the alerts that are available,” Spence said.
Dawn Border told News 4 she likes receiving updates.
“They actually give me updates as to when the cheapest airfare is.”
All this information can make some travelers obsess over finding that best price, and get even more frustrated if they can’t get it.
“Seems like it almost becomes an addiction, to just get the price,” traveler Gladys Lopez said.
“Sometimes you’re at their mercy because you want to go on vacation so you have to get the tickets when you can,” Border said.
The best tip is to start looking at prices as soon as you know your travel date.
Don’t necessarily buy right away, but as soon as the price drops in a lower range, grab it. Or, as Klee warns, you could drive yourself crazy.
“At some point, you’re going on vacation, you want to enjoy it. So don’t stress too much over ten dollars here or there,” he advised.
Flights from Southwest Airlines were not included in the studies because their website does not allow tracking. But Klee said he’s found Southwest’s price fluctuations are similar to other airlines.
A Southwest representative said they recommend booking at least three weeks before the flight and they are one of the few airlines that will give you credit if the price changes, without an additional fee. Klee’s company cheapair.com has a similar service.