When Should I Shop for Airfare to Find the Cheapest Flights?

There’s a lot of advice out there on best days to shop for airfare. Some say weekends are best, others say it doesn’t matter.

But it does matter, says airfare analyst and FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney who says, “Shop for airfare on Tuesdays.” As Seaney points out, that’s when airlines launch sales. Now for some proof.

LISTEN: Rick Seaney loves this tip – because it works.

Why did Southwest launch a big fall sale so early?

Shop for Airfare on Tuesdays

What happened this Tuesday (June 2) is the perfection illustration. Southwest may have started things off with its mega-sale for fall but other carriers were busy launching their own sales with prices to meet and even beat Southwest’s. There were deals for fall, there were deals for summer.

Here is the Proof

The following deals were all launched on Tuesday, June 2.

  • Frontier: June Deals from $29 one-way. Book by June 2
  • JetBlue: Summer Deals from $44 one-way.
  • Southwest: Fall Deals from $49 one-way
  • Virgin America: Fall Deals from $49 one-way. Book by June 2
  • United: Summer Deals from $123 roundtrip

Notice the short shelf-life of these sales; some last a single day, while most of the others expire in 48 or 72 hours. The main point: These sales do not continue into the weekend, so those who wait to shop until Friday, Saturday or Sunday are going to be out of luck. If that happens, wait until the following Tuesday to shop.

Tip: The optimal time to shop on Tuesday is 3 p.m. eastern. This is when airlines on competing routes have completed matching the sale prices and shoppers will have the greatest number of cheap flights to choose from.

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Updated: June 3, 2015