To get the best possible price on a domestic airline ticket, purchase your flight 54 days before your trip.
That’s a week earlier than last year, according to a new analysis from CheapAir.com. If you’re unable to book on that exact day, you’ll still generally get the best deal booking your ticket between 21 and 112 days out, which CheapAir.com calls the “prime booking window.”
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Even though many travelers think that they’ll get a better deal by waiting until the last minute to book, that strategy usually backfires. Recent airline consolidation and cost cutting means that most airplanes are flying at or near capacity, so the airlines have less incentive to discount seats.
“Fares usually go up dramatically within 14 days of the flight,” CheapAir.com CEO Jeff Klee said in a statement.
Buying your ticket less than two weeks out will cost an average of $75 more than it would have if you’d bought during the prime booking window. Purchasing a ticket less than a week out can cost you an extra $200.
Early birds will also pay a premium, with those buying tickets more than 197 days out paying an average of $50 more than the prime booking window price. Those travelers, however, do enjoy access to better seat selection as well as their choice of departure times and direct flights.