How to Understand How Airlines Price Flight Tickets

Airlines have several methods of pricing tickets.
Airlines have several methods of pricing tickets. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

As gas prices go up, so does the cost of an airline ticket. Knowing how airlines price flight tickets and when flights are cheaper can help you find the best deals. In addition to high ticket prices, airlines are charging for everything from checked baggage to a pillow on the flight, making cheap tickets even more of a necessity. Understanding the various methods used by airlines to price tickets isn’t difficult. There are just a few pieces of information to keep in mind so you can find the best airfare.

Understand seat pricing. Airlines have various price points for each ticket, which vary depending on how much competition there is on that route, seat demand, the length of the route, the number of seats available and fuel costs. In addition, these prices are split between business and leisure tickets. More-expensive tickets are considered business tickets because these travelers aren’t as worried about getting the lowest possible price for a flight.

Know the hurdles. Airlines have various rules that also determine what tickets are priced. The more rules you meet, the cheaper the tickets. Computer models also keep track of which hurdles you pass and which you don’t when you ask for a quote. The airline will quote you a higher-priced ticket if the computer feels you will pay more based on your answers. Common hurdles include advanced purchase dates, blackout periods, length of stay, the date you’re flying, flight times, the purchase date and the window of travel.

Know the cheapest flight days. Wednesday is considered the cheapest day to fly while Tuesday and Saturday are close seconds. Friday, Sunday and Monday are expensive because people are either flying for a weekend trip, leaving for a business trip or coming home from a business trip, all which drives up traffic.

Know the cheapest flight times. The lowest fares will be during the times that most people don’t want to fly. Red-eye flights (overnight) and the very first flight of the day have the cheapest fares because people either don’t want to sleep on a plane or because a 4:30 a.m. flight can be difficult to get to. Airlines also discount flights during lunch or dinner hours, though not by as much.

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