You’ve been booking airline tickets all wrong

The Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) found that the best day to book your airline ticket is Sunday and Saturday coming in second.

The Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) found that the best day to book your airline ticket is Sunday and Saturday coming in second.  (AP)

Buy your tickets on Wednesday, oh, I mean Tuesday! 

For years you’ve heard from online travel agencies, airline executives and fare tracking websites about the “best time” to buy those ever-rising airline tickets.  You were told to avoid weekends altogether, since, according to the experts, fares on weekends were the highest.

Last week the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) --which processes tickets for travel agencies in the U.S. and handles about half of all tickets sold --looked at the average ticket prices for domestic and international round trip tickets during a 19-month period ending on July 30, 2014.

It found that Sunday came in with the lowest average on more than 130 million tickets with Saturday being the second best day. 

So much for buying those tickets with mid-week departures.  And what should travelers make of this?

It’s Complicated

Airlines use sophisticated revenue management systems to dynamically change fares even when you are in the process of booking a flight.  They maximize the ticket price of remaining seats by monitoring supply and demand in real time.  I’ve heard from plenty of travelers who go to checkout moments after choosing their seats, only to find the price has mysteriously risen in the last few moments.  This is one sure fired way to aggravate potential travelers, before they even have a chance to feel a passenger’s knees in their back on takeoff!

Airlines have cut back on some non-stop flights to secondary markets and even some large cities like Philadelphia.  That means a connection is the only way to make the trip, thus adding to the complexity of the airline booking and ultimately the price. Should you connect through Charlotte, Houston, Miami, or maybe Chicago?  You could be looking at layovers as short as 45 minutes or as long as twelve hours, depending on the combination.  Just do a quick search on Orbitz and you’ll see some of the crazy connections that come up. 

Confused yet?  You wouldn’t be the first, or the last, to be overwhelmed by the challenge of finding the right ticket at the right price.  Since prices are always fluctuating, and you’re getting different “tips” on when to buy, it’s no wonder you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

Simplify Your Life and Your Next Trip

International airlines get between 60 and 70 percent of their passengers booked via travel agents.  Domestically, it’s north of 40 percent.  Do what the vast majority of air travelers do when taking a trip: book with a travel professional who does this kind of thing for a living, not once or twice a year.  A good travel agent can find you the best connection, lowest fare, and even get you upgraded.  Ever hear of a Y Up fare?  Well, that’s a full fare economy class ticket that automatically gets you a first class seat, guaranteed.  This type of fare is best for business travelers who book at the last minute, those who pay the highest fares as a result. 

You can shop around and try to time the airline market on your own, or simply find a good travel agent who can do it for you.  You’ll save time, as well as money…and based on the latest ARC data, enjoy your weekend too!

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Mark Murphy is a noted travel expert, author and founder of  You can follow him on Twitter at @murphytravels.