Although certainly a factor in airfare pricing, the timing of your purchase is far less important than you think. What’s actually at play here is the fare-pricing model across the airlines, which is about as easy to understand as Wall Street’s most advanced high-speed trading networks.
Airline ticket prices are governed by supercomputers employing algorithms that take advantage of dynamic pricing, which means that costs are never fixed. Instead, they rise and fall in response to demand and a host of other factors. Believe it or not, the very same seat on a given flight is typically offered at around 20 different prices. On average, 92% of passengers snag their ticket at some type of discount, although rarely the same one. Why? Apparently this is the best way to maximize profit in a bankruptcy-prone industry where every cent matters—but that’s another column.
I have some good news, however. Just as IBM’s famous Jeopardy!—playing (and, eventually, losing) mainframe “Watson” illustrated a few years ago, the machines—no matter how intelligent—aren’t perfect. And they don’t always win. With a little extra knowledge and groundwork on your part, you too can outsmart the system and score rock-bottom deals on a seat, whether you’re booking it last-minute or several months in advance.
How? It’s a lot easier than you think. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and let the airfare deals come to you.