Estimating when a specific airfare will increase?
September 20, 2007 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Estimating how long I can wait to book a specific airfare I found, before that fare increases...


After a lot of searching I found a perfectly timed and cheap roundtrip flight for a trip I'll do next summer. I've gone through the booking steps on the airline's site on a few different days now, and it keeps coming out the same fare, but I assume at some point the fare will increase. I'm not positive about my trip's dates yet, so I can't book until I find out some stuff which may depend on slow communication from other people.

So this question is about whether there's any way to guess how long I have to decide before the fare increases, or whether that is so unpredictable that I really can't even guess.

(The fare is JFK-ARN-JFK on IcelandAir, leaving in May 08 and returning in July 08. I want to use them not because they're absolute cheapest but because they offer the free stopover in KEF on this itinerary.)
posted by sparrows to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Didja ask farecast.com?
posted by ldenneau at 5:05 PM on September 20, 2007


Farecast doesn't predict JFK-ARN yet.

(And unless I'm missing something, farecast isn't useful for one specific flight when I care about using a particular airline.)
posted by sparrows at 5:16 PM on September 20, 2007


Are you at least 80% or so certain of your dates? If it turns out that fare increases really are just too random to predict, perhaps your best bet would be to cross your fingers, make your best flight date estimate, and risk -maybe- having to pay a fee to change your flight dates should that end up being necessary? I say "maybe" because I've changed flight dates at the last minute before and (through luck or who knows what!) ended up not having to pay anything extra. And who knows, even if you -did- end up having to pay a fee, perhaps said fee wouldn't be any worse than whatever fare increase (or worse yet, risk of the flight ending up being sold out) you might incur by waiting? I suppose that'd depend on how good a deal you've found but, well, it's something to consider ...
posted by zeph at 5:28 PM on September 20, 2007


Hmm, this might be completely useless but I just thought of another way you might be able to get a sense for how long you have before the flight prices change: could you check on those specific flight numbers for different times incrementally closer to today? Say, if you're planning to fly next June 7-15, could you check how much the route would cost if you booked it for May 7-15? And April 7-15? And March 7-15? And keep going until you find the month in which the rates significantly increase?

I have no idea how the airlines decide to inflate prices but if they do it based on some mysterious "date from time of purchase," you might be able to get at least a rough idea of what that time span is this way. Of course, if it's largely just a matter of all flight prices changing in one fell swoop based more on the vagaries of the industry rather than any sort of time frame this will probably be of no help whatsoever, but until you get a more useful suggestion it might at least be worth trying ...
posted by zeph at 6:52 PM on September 20, 2007


You're right that another way for me to think about it is whether the increase would be more than the change fee (which is $200 in this case). Probably this fare would take a while to increase that much.

(The trick of looking back incrementally probably doesn't work since transatlantic fares vary a lot by season -- so March would probably be way cheaper just naturally, for example.)
posted by sparrows at 7:53 PM on September 20, 2007


This seems like the perfect opportunity to plug www.farecompare.com, whose staff make it a point to respond to each such inquiry they receive. Very helpful and very responsive!

I e-mailed them and asked when I should buy a flight for my best friend's wedding and I heard back within 2 days. You can also sign up for their flight alerts, which routinely hit my inbox a few hours before the Travelocity alerts.

Of course, all of this advice might still not get you around the obscurity of ARN. It never hurts to ask.
posted by moreandmoreso at 12:32 AM on September 21, 2007


Also seems like a perfect opportunity to use Yapta - where they craftily work to get you a refund if the price of the fare you booked drops below what you paid at some point.

I travel regularly (domestic in the US as well as internationally), and my general experience is that price on a route will fluctuate slightly when you are months out, unless you cross a seasonality date for your origin or destination (i.e. once it becomes summer down here in South Africa, where I am right now, the fares start to change significantly - basically they move the opposite directions of fares originating from here towards the states - then as the season changes back they reverse again).

My advice would be as soon as you know your exact dates, book the lowest fare you can find at that time. If you wait until 21 days before your departure date, expect to see a significant increase in fare. If you wait until 7 days, expect to see an exorbitant increase. Airlines have been getting better and better at what they do, and these days the longer you wait the more you should expect to pay.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:27 AM on September 21, 2007


My personal experience is 2 weeks. Booking anything after that magical 2 week bufer usually means increased fares.

Ive read about the 2 week rule elsewhere so I know its not just me.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:04 AM on September 21, 2007


In the past year or two -- in my opinion -- most airlines have shifted their advance purchase prices from lower than typical to higher than typical. The old thinking went that they'd rather attract a purchase from someone looking to buy way in advance, thus guaranteeing a filled seat and getting your money early. However, with fluctuations in fares mostly caused by fuel cost increases, some and possibly most airlines now sell far-advance fares on the high side of average. They've decided the early income from cheap fares is not worth the potential loss from a sudden leap in fuel prices, killing their profit margin.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I think it's often worth waiting until about three months before you travel to book; or, if you're looking at a high-season route, maybe four to five months, tops. No guarantees of course! It's all dark sorcery in the end.
posted by chrismohney at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2007


I booked a flight this summer: six weeks before the flight, the price was about $40 more than it was at its lowest. My procrastination ended up paying off when I snagged it at its lowest rate about four weeks before I left. Domestic flights, though.

Moral is: yeah, I agree that sometimes the price goes down if you wait a little longer.
posted by lauranesson at 7:22 PM on September 21, 2007


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