Does the IP address, the day of the week, the departure date and other factors have any impact on the price you’ll pay for your plane ticket? We’ll try to demystify this for you.

Myths

Last minute purchase = top deal?

Buying last minute doesn’t mean you’ll get the lowest price on your plane ticket.

Actually, it’s the opposite! The closer you get to your departure date, the more scarce the seats become and passengers who need to travel on that date are willing to pay the price―a perfect example of supply and demand.

The day of the week affects the price of a plane ticket

Another popular belief is that the best savings can be had when you purchase your plane ticket on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The reason for this is because carriers often post their flight discounts starting Monday night until Tuesday morning.

Hopper looked into this matter and analyzed some 20 million flight searches to see if booking on Tuesdays really offered any savings. The answer? Yes but the difference in price is insignificant.

Realities

The price of your flight may depend on your IP address

Any traveller looking for a deal knows that when shopping for plane tickets online prices can skyrocket from one day to the next.

This phenomenon can be caused by IP address monitoring where the travel websites store your searches and the IP addresses of the devices connected to your network.

To work around this tactic denounced by many consumers, the ones who are not as tech savvy will do their research at one place (e.g., at home) and then make their purchase at another location like a friend’s house.

The more techno savvy consumers will empty their browsing history and browse with a virtual private network (VPN) that allows them to change their IP address.

Will the use of a VPN prevent fluctuations in ticket costs and guarantee the best price? It might, but there are too many other factors that come into play for it to be a sure thing.

Leaving Mondays and Tuesdays costs less

To make their flights more profitable, airlines often offer a discount to customers travelling at the beginning of the week rather than on Friday and Saturday, which are often more popular.

It pays to reserve early

The sooner you buy your ticket, the less you’ll pay. Why? Because as the seats fill up, prices on those remaining seats will go up.

But don’t reserve too early. According to Cheap Air, based on an analysis of 3 million flights, the perfect time to book is 54 days before departure.

As for last minute reservations, i.e., two weeks before departure, it could cost you up to $150 more per ticket.

Why does the cost of a plane ticket vary so much?

It’s because airlines have adopted a real-time pricing system, which consists of constantly adjusting prices based on supply and demand.

How is the price calculated?

First there are the fixed costs, which are the expenses paid regardless of how many seats are sold for a flight:

  • Staff
  • Purchase and maintenance costs of an airplane
  • Fuel
  • Meals and drinks

Then there are the variable costs like airport and fuel taxes which fluctuate.

Add the principles of supply and demand and you now have all the ingredients that make the cost of plane tickets vary so much.

For the same destination, ticket prices vary based on:

  • Period: Spring break, Christmas and summer holidays are always more expensive than other times of the year.
  • Departure day: Flying at the start of the week is often more affordable than travelling on the weekends.
  • Number of seats available: Availability means the prices are more competitive to stimulate sales. On the other hand, when there are only a few seats left, the price goes up.
  • Competition: If several airlines serve a destination, the competition may be advantageous for travellers.
  • Economic situation: When the economy is strong, airlines increase their prices because travellers are more likely to travel. They lower their prices when there is a slowdown in the economy.

How to pay less?

Sign up for alerts

Sign up for alerts and newsletters sent by travel agencies or airlines. You’ll get access to a whole bunch of discounts.

To widen your searches among airlines, use Google Flights, one of the most user friendly sites out there.

Look for discounts, not the lowest prices

On average, the price of a plane ticket can change up to 70 times between the time it’s posted and the actual flight.

Finding the lowest price for a particular flight comes down to pure luck.

Look for a good price and jump on it when you think you find one.

Travel during the low season

If possible, avoid travelling during the busy times:

  • Christmas holidays
  • Spring break
  • Summer holidays

Who knows, maybe you can get a great deal if you go to Europe in November?

Be flexible

If your travel dates are approximate, you have more options available and you risk paying less for your plane tickets.

Check with your airline, however, to make sure a change in dates is possible and how much it might cost.

Look outside the box

Sometimes discounts might be offered for a destination you’ve never even considered.

The next time you’re looking for plane tickets, don’t limit yourself to just one country and check the “Anywhere” destination box.

Opt for a flight with stopovers

Even if the travel time might be longer, a flight with connections is often less expensive than a direct flight.

This rule doesn’t necessarily apply across the board though. Check the different options as it’s also possible that a direct flight might be cheaper, especially a domestic flight.

Leave from the U.S.

Many Canadians (approximately 5 million a year) cross the border to take a flight from a U.S. airport to save a few dollars on their ticket.

Check for departures from airports south of the border that are closest to you like Plattsburg, Bellingham or Detroit―discovering these U.S. locations may well be a welcome addition to your trip.