Is it cheaper to book a flight last minute?

Posted at 10:07 AM, Aug 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 10:14:59-04

It feels like an age-old question: Are flights cheaper when booked last minute?

It would make sense for airlines to cut prices as a flight gets closer to takeoff, but airlines rarely do this, even with open seats in the cabin.

Jack Sheldon, a self-proclaimed expert at finding flight deals, told TIME airlines typically don’t lower prices last minute because of human behavior. Consumers would catch on, and that would make for less profit for airlines.

Airlines sometimes raise prices as the takeoff date gets closer because consumers who book last minute are likely business people whose travel expenses are paid for by their company, TIME reported.

Zach Honig, The Points Guy editor-in-chief, said long international flights that don’t go to popular business areas are usually cheaper at the last minute. Honig told TIME the flights could be "least expensive just a day or two before departure, especially on routes that aren't popular with business travelers."

Honig said consumers shouldn’t book a non-stop domestic flight if they’re looking to save money. The prices of those flights usually increase about 14 days before departure, he said.

Sheldon agrees it’s best to book a domestic flight three to four weeks ahead of time. Consumers should start considering international flights two to three months out.

For someone with a more flexible schedule, booking a flight in the off-season (spring or fall) will save money.