It’s All About Timing … and Lean Times

One of my favorite daily reads is the Wall Street Journal, but not because I expect to find budget travel advice there. Yet writer Scott McCartney in a recent “The Middle Seat” column (Thursday 27 January 2011) shares some valuable guidance for today’s budget minded traveler.

It’s all about finding the best deal on airline tickets. Ticket pricing is a mind-boggling topic with at least one commonly known truism: depending on when you fly, there are lower airline fares on some days of the week (typically Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday) than others. But what if you change the day of week, or time of day, when you book your flight?

Here’s where McCartney’s column delivers. It describes how airline pricing follows a cycle during the week. An analysis of domestic fares shows booking on Tuesday can mean a lower fare, and that Wednesday also has good ticket prices.

How much better? McCartney cites a Chicago-Atlanta round trip ticket for April 8-15 travel that in mid-January cost $209 on Tuesday and Wednesday on American and Delta, but then $301 for the next four days. Then on the following Tuesday, the fare dropped again, this time to $219, before increasing to $307 the next Friday. He shares other examples as well.

It’s all about timing. Is there a best time of the week to buy? McCartney cites three years of research by Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com and has an answer: 3 pm Eastern time on Tuesdays.

Which begs a question: Since when is the Wall Street Journal a source of cost-savings advice? My hunch is that the recent state of the economy may best answer that one.  In lean times, the business traveler and the backpacker seem more likely to share a common interest, in finding the best price.  Yet the  similarity mostly ends at the curtain between coach and business class.

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