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How Far in Advance Should International Flights Be Booked?

How Far in Advance Should International Flights Be Booked?

Here is one of The Professor's best tips for finding inexpensive coach, premium economy and business class trips to Europe.  I bet you never saw this one before!  See:

A question The Traveling Professor gets quite a bit from travelers is "When Should I Book My International Flight?".   Before we can answer that question, there are a few things flyers need to know beforehand: 

  • Overseas flights become available 330 days in advance.   So, if booking a round-trip flight from New York to Paris departing on October 1, 2021 and returning on October 10, 2021, that flight could have been booked November 23, 2020 at the earliest.
  • On legacy carriers like American, Delta, United, Lufthansa, etc. it is can be significantly cheaper to book a round trip flight instead of two one-way flights.
  • In this age of COVID, before buying any airline tickets, make sure to check any border restrictions, curfews, and quarantines that may be imposed.  Also, only purchase an airline ticket with liberal change and cancellation conditions.

So, when is the best time to purchase international airfare?

  • If buying with award miles, purchase tickets ASAP.  Also, if you have been reading The Traveling Professor's blog posts, please be reminded that it IS recommended to purchase one-way flights using award miles.  Also, avoid purchasing award miles tickets where routing takes you through London LHR or other UK airports - the additional fees can be unreasonable.
  • If buying with award miles and the flights you want are not immediately available, sometimes additional seats will be released 30 days ahead of departure time.
  • If purchasing international airfare with money, it is usually best to purchase far in advance.  Otherwise, we find the "sweet spot" to be about 3 months in advance.

Some Rules to Ignore

  • Some will say that Tuesdays are the best time to buy airfare.  Study after study shows that there is no significant difference from buying airfare on any particular day.
  • A rule to ignore is that airline ticket pricing is based on logic.  After purchasing international airfare for over 25 years on hundreds of overseas trips, The Professor's experience tells him there is little "rhyme or reason" to why airline tickets are priced and what "rules" are followed.  

See other useful airline ticket strategies from The Traveling Professor. 

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