I hear a lot of myths about supposedly fiendish airlines hiding or holding ultra-cheap airline tickets until a secret midnight hour when only those-in-the-know can take advantage. Baloney!
Here is the real story.
LISTEN: Rick Seaney deals in facts, not myths.
Best Day to Shop:
If you're shopping in the U.S. for domestic fares, you want to be shopping on Tuesday.
Best Time to Shop:
The optimum time is Tuesday at about 3 p.m. eastern time. If you're on the West Coast, that would be Noon PT.
What Makes This the Best Day and Time?
Airlines typically launch sales late Monday or very early the next day, and we start seeing them Tuesday morning. Other airlines – ones that compete on the same routes as the sale-launching carriers – then swing into action to match their competitors' fares. It's not because they're nice guys, it's because they want your business too and don't want to end up on page five of a shopper's airfare search. This Tuesday "matching activity" is essentially complete by 3 p.m. eastern.
Is this the Only Day to Find a Deal?
No. Shopping on Tuesday is the best and most consistent way but airlines can and do come out of left field with good prices from time to time (and sometimes these are mistake fares). As I wrote in a recent column for USA Today, "In theory, every search request helps recalculate airlines' cheapest inventory – for each and every itinerary – based on how well that flight is selling today, how it did yesterday or years before (this is where historical data comes into play)."
Taking advantage of great fares that can appear at any time is easy: Sign up for airfare alerts.
What about Secret Midnight Hours?
The only time I'd suggest staying up for midnight is New Year's Eve – so you can watch that big glittery ball drop on TV. Don't bother otherwise.