What do you get when you combine writing about airline travel since 2008 with a few decades of being a sarcastic chap? Unsolicited Travel Advice from David (the Editor-in-Chief of this dog and pony show) — that’s what! There are way too many travel-related click-bait stories out there that give you boring and questionable information from “experts.” This series will be different — I will give you entertaining, possibly less questionable information, while not caring about any sort of clicks or bait. Let me set the mood. Imagine that you and I are hanging out, when we have just hit upon an interesting airline/travel topic (when is the best time to buy airline tickets?) and I am fired up and ready to spew my thoughts and opinions. When I wrap up, I hope that you won’t just awkwardly stare at me, but instead continue the conversation in the comments. Let’s do this…
There are lots of seats in lots of planes out there, but tickets go fast!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BUY MY AIRLINE TICKET?
Now! Crap, you just missed it… do it now! I am serious… don’t overthink this, buy them now! There are all sorts of thoughts/theories on this. Some backed with actual data, others sound more like snake oil pitches. Here are some “suggestions” that I have heard over the years:
Buy on a Tuesday
Earlier the better
Wait until the last minute for great deals
Buy on Travel Deal Tuesday (Tuesday after Thanksgiving)
Although those opinions might sound fun, I decided to search for some data to back these up. I ventured onto quite a few “legit” travel sites where there was no shortage of experts giving advice on the best time to buy airline tickets. Here is (no joke) what I found… the best time to buy a ticket before your flight: 70 days, 62 days, 90 days, 47 days, 69 days, 21 days, 110 days, 49 days, 217 days, 147 days, 50 days, 76 days, 99 days, 66 days, 94 days… I had to stop. There were more, lots more… but I could already see the total lack of trends. Or reasoning. I was starting to get the hint that there might not be some magical number, but more of people wanting you to read their story and click an ad (or two) before you leave.
Eastern Air Lines ticket from the 1950s. You waited WAAAAY too long to buy this one.
Even if you did have a magic number, there are so many variables that can change prices; load factors, oil prices, competition, and of course my favorite… Murphy’s Law. It is a gamble and if you love the thrill of a winning streak, I will try not to judge, but I have seen enough movies to know that the house (or airlines) will always win in the long run.
I don’t use any special tricks or secrets, I just ask myself these three simple questions:
#1 Do I want to go on this trip? #2 Do I have the money/miles to buy my airline ticket now? #3 Will I be less happy if I do not buy them now, and the prices go up?
If I answer “yes” to most of these questions, I say the time to buy is now! Of course once I buy, there is one thing I must not do, or it could ruin EVERYTHING…
This past week, after a decade-long pause, Air France returned to Newark Liberty International Airport. The service is operated by a Boeing 777-200ER, a staple of the airline’s long-haul fleet. Passengers and higher-ups from both the airline and airport celebrated the occasion with plenty of fanfare, including speeches, a ribbon cutting, and cake.
Air France already operates multiple flights into New York through JFK, so the focus here is really on the parts of the tri-state area — like New Jersey and Staten Island — that are closer to Newark. As someone who grew up in central Jersey I can attest to that convenience advantage. Newark’s outdated terminals catch flak from some travelers, but like LaGuardia and JFK, EWR already launched a massive project to improve its ground game.
JFK is a SkyTeam stronghold thanks to Delta, but Newark has fewer connections with Air France’s alliance partners. United’s twice-daily Paris service is the main legacy airline competition. Both Air France and United are sandwiched between two other unique options on the price spectrum. French Bee offers a high-density low-cost service we’ve written about before. And La Compagnie offers a unique business-class-only service on an Airbus A321neo. But despite the competition, Air France sees plenty of market opportunity to relaunch into Newark, including for passengers looking to connect onward from Paris to points east.
When I fly for personal reasons, I will often think of a possible story angle before my flight. Sometimes I find one, sometimes I do not. During a recent trip from Seattle (SEA) to Houston (IAH), I flew on an Alaska Airlines 737. I thought what possible story angle could I come up with that could be unique when I am flying another Alaska 737 out of Seattle? I figured that this would just be a flight that I would enjoy and no story to be told (which is not always a bad thing).
As I sat at the gate, waiting to board, I looked at my flight details. Yes, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not take a closer look at what aircraft I was flying on earlier, but that allowed me to have a nice little surprise. I wasn’t just flying on any Boeing 737, but a 737 MAX 9. That was important to me, because this was my first MAX flight… game on.
I quickly changed from “civilian mode” (a name I use when flying as a passenger, not doing a story) to “blogger mode.” I started to think about what photos I wanted to take and how. Make sure I took good notes (I often forget in the giddiness), and not look too much like a total nerd in front of other passengers.
As I boarded the plane, I wondered how different the MAX would be. It was still using the same fuselage as the 737-100 that launched service in 1968, so would a typical passenger even notice? Would I notice? I was excited (actually more giddy) to find out.
I sometimes use my mom (who loves birds, but not really planes) to help guide what we cover on AirlineReporter. Typically if she mentions “Hey did you see this story about an airline?” we have a nice conversation about it, but that typically means it has been well covered and unless we have a unique opinion, we move on. So, it feels special when my mom brings up a story she saw, and I have a few thoughts to add.
If you missed it, Frontier Airlines has opted to ditch their customer care call center, while still providing online support – all in the name of bringing down costs. Unless you are new to following the airline biz, we have seen this sort of thing a few times now. An airline announces some change to “save money to pass down to passengers.” Many media outlets cover it with the tone, “here is an airline looking to screw you over again.” Passengers, some who never have flown the airline, will flow to social media with the tone “HOW DARE YOU SCREW ME OVER AIRLINE, I WILL NEVER, EVER FLY YOU AGAIN!!!”
Even though I have come to roll my eyes with this sort of rinse and repeat narrative, I decided that I wanted to dig a bit deeper on this one. Why does this keep happening? Who is to blame? Is it the “evil” airlines and their greed? Or is it something much closer to home? Spoiler: I found answers!
Inaugurals, brandnewairlines, airline sunsets, new planes, unique planes. What do these all have in common? They’re a magnet for AvGeeks. And any time you get a group of enthusiasts in a room together they all start telling their “AvGeek experience” stories. You know how it goes – “the shortest flight I ever flew was…” and then someone chimes in with theirs. It’s good fun.
Today we are excited to tell you about an AvGeek experience we just recently learned of (and promptly booked) thanks to our friend and sometimes AirlineReporter contributor Nick Benson over at JetTip. Picture this: An inaugural flight between a new city pair, to an airport you and your friends have probably never been to. Just an 85-mile flight, onboard a 737 with a bunch of fellow AvGeeks…
Let’s Fly an Inaugural EAS Flight
On December 1, 2022 Sun Country will inaugurate service between MSP and EAU (Chippewa Valley Regional Airport) using one of their 737s. At time of writing, the new route is a bargain at just shy of $40 each way. This is a ULCC, so seat selection, etc., are extra. But here’s the thing – it’s a short 45-minute flight, and an inaugural so why not just roll the dice? We realize this isn’t Spirit, but here’s your chance to go full un-bundled, like I did in 2016 when I tried the Bare Fare, for science. Do it, and you’ll have another story to tell your friends.
Wendy Burt, Sr. Director of communications for Sun Country confirms that this unique new route is part of the DOT’s Essential Air Service program. EAS is intended to ensure service to undeserved communities. She also confirmed that “there will be an event in Eau Claire on the first day to celebrate.” Airline-themed cake, anyone? We can only hope…