my jobbie lies over the ocean?
January 12, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

transatlanticfilter: should I buy my plane ticket now, or wait?

I live in Europe, and may be invited to a big job interview in the United States early-mid March. Unfortunately, I won't find out if I have been invited until mid-late February. I think there's a very good chance of me being offered this interview, but it's not a given. I probably wouldn't shell out for the plane trip just for an interview, but I look forward to the excuse to visit with my family, as well.

How much money would I save if I bought my ticket now (for a potentially non-existent interview-- but I know the date it would be) versus buying it approximately two weeks in advance? I would be flying between Paris and either New York, DC, or Boston. Is there any way to buy a changeable ticket these days? Because I need to fly to move back to the US sometime later this year anyhow, so maybe I could buy now and change to later if need be. Also, what sites do you recommend? I usually use ITA just because it has such a clean interface but I'd be interested to hear alternatives. Any and all ideas appreciated!
posted by threeants to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No one can tell you whether a plane ticket will be cheaper now or later. attempts to do this, but in my experience isn't very reliable, and IIRC only works for domestic (US) flights.

That said, I recommend You can see fare history for your route, set up deal alerts, etc. Best of luck!
posted by jckll at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2010

Just a question...but, is it possible that travel would be arranged and paid for by the company inviting you for the interview?
posted by zizzle at 10:13 AM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: jckill: I know there's know way to specifically know, but I guess my problem is I don't even know vagaries. Like, is it completely crazy to buy two weeks in advance? Am I going to be looking at doubled prices?

zizzle: Unfortunately, that is explicitly not an option. (Wish it was though!)
posted by threeants at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2010

Try checking, which does work for international flights. They predict whether the cost of a fare will increase or decrease and tell you how confident they are in their prediction, in addition to showing you fare histories.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:17 AM on January 12, 2010

I think it's the nature of airfare to be wildly unpredictable. It doesn't seem to be tied to purchase date, though you risk a flight being sold out if you wait too long.

I've used Vayama in the past. They have a very slick interface. Though I've found there's never one site that has the cheapest tickets. Vayama may beat Kayak for Flight A, but charge more for Flight B, so it's always good to shop around if you're a stickler for frugality.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:23 AM on January 12, 2010

Have you tried booking a hypothetical flight for 2 weeks from today, and then 4 weeks, etc. to see how the prices look? Not scientific as a predictor but it might give you a feel for things.
posted by JanetLand at 10:29 AM on January 12, 2010

I use -- I just checked it against farecast, and it has a much simpler interface, and I found a ticket $200 less. Maybe check there, find the ticket, look at the rules. In the past, I've found fidgeting the dates a little can make a big difference, but it depends on the season you're flying in.
posted by bwonder2 at 10:30 AM on January 12, 2010 has worked great for me in the past. They search all the major airline aggregators (including vayama, priceline, etc) and individual airlines websites, and for major routes will also give you a fare forecast predictor.
posted by CharlieSue at 10:33 AM on January 12, 2010

Just as a data-point I had a ticket booked for me back in October for a transatlantic flight I'm taking later on this month. Last week, Mrs ob found out that she could come with me so she looked into buying a ticket. She managed to get the same flights as me for $50 less.
posted by ob at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2010

If you go here, hit search airfares using QPX, and log in as a guest, you can search an entire month at a time across all airlines.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:00 PM on January 12, 2010

You can sometimes get a refund or credit if the price drops after you buy a ticket; services like Yapta help with this. It doesn't necessarily work with airlines based outside of the US, but some US based airlines fly overseas so this could still help you if you take one of those.

I think ITA shows you the booking/fare class codes for the tickets, which should tell you whether the tickets are changeable or refundable. In the ambiguous cases, you can go and look at the same ticket on the airline's website, and it should tell you whether the specific ticket is changeable or refundable -- the fees and policies vary by airline and ticket.
posted by sentient at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2010

Data point here - I have flown a lot UK to USA over the past 9 years (probably about 30 round trips). About 90% of the time I buy 1 to 4 weeks before the trip (I'm a procrastinator). I've been burned by high fares and\or less-than-ideal routings maybe 5 times, and they have all been around Christmas or in the height of summer. Usually the fares have stayed roughly the same or gotten cheaper.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 2:30 PM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas, folks -- looks like I'll wait a bit. For some reason I thought plane tickets inherently went up with time, but I guess not!
posted by threeants at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2010

This is purely anecdotal. I started looking for tickets for our late-August trip to France in June, and kept checking a couple of times per week until 3 weeks before the trip. The tickets were exactly the same price as they would have been if I had bought them almost 3 months earlier.
posted by onepot at 3:21 PM on January 12, 2010

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