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Cory Thomason
Cory Thomason

Buying Plane Tickets Last Minute Cheaper

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Last-minute flight deals are hard to come by. Conventional wisdom might lead you to believe that airlines drop prices to fill seats as it gets closer to the departure date, but the reality is demand is usually strong enough for airlines to overbook many of their flights. Instead of offering last-minute flight deals, airlines can usually sell their cheapest fares first. Then they increase the prices right before the flight to take advantage of business travelers and others who need to fly immediately and are willing to pay for it.

Search for last-minute flights on aggregators like Google Flights for upcoming flights. If you are flexible about where to go, only input the dates you want to travel and leave the destination field blank to see a map of some of the best deals. You might also want to consider flying at off-hours or to a different airport.

Another good rule of thumb for travelers figuring out how to get cheap last-minute flights: There is no secret time to score the perfect deal. But generally, the best prices tend to drop off once the flight is less than three weeks away.

The popularity of a destination during a specific time of year can also cause fares to surge. For example, visiting New Orleans in February during Mardi Gras or flying to New York City in December to see the holiday decorations can make it harder to find a good, last-minute deal.

It used to be that airlines saw any empty seat at takeoff as lost potential revenue. But now, as pricing algorithms have gotten more complex and forward-thinking, airlines have realized they make more money by jacking up prices and taking advantage of business travelers willing to pay full price for a last minute or even same-day flight.

Some other airlines offer tickets with more flexibility than the typical last minute flight or lower-than-normal change fees if a sudden death means you need to cancel or change a planned trip (American Airlines and United Airlines among them).

Even ten years ago, you could find last-minute tickets for cheap: airlines adamant about flying at maximum capacity were willing to slash prices shortly before departure to prompt impulsive purchases.

Airlines realized that those were people who used to buy their airfare at full price. By dropping prices at the last minute, they had changed booking behaviors and encouraged people to wait until the last moment to purchase their ticket.

In fact, they realized that, on the contrary, they could make more money by jacking up prices at the last minute on certain itineraries, because some business travellers would accept to pay full price for a last-minute flight.

Because as you get closer to the departure date, every day matters. This means that, in general, booking your plane ticket ten days in advance is cheaper than five days in advance, which is cheaper than two days in advance.

If you have a specific destination in mind, the situation is more complex. There are fewer flights for you to consider and no guarantee that there are too many empty seats for the airline to lower prices. In that case, is your best option, but give a try to Skyscanner too. Since they look at prices from many providers at once, you increase your chances of saving money.

Bereavement fares are discounted tickets offered to passengers who need to travel in order to attend a funeral or be with a sick relative. There was a time when most airlines offered those last minute flight deals, but that is no longer the case. In North America, only a few airlines still offer them, as pointed out by The Points Guy: Air Canada, WestJet, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Lufthansa (should you need to get to Europe for a funeral).

The objective of waiting until the last minute to book airline tickets is to save money. But when you play this hit-or-miss game, you should be prepared to pay more than you would have if you had booked your flight earlier or even not fly at all if the airline increases the pr


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