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How far before a flight do the low fares expire?

How far before a flight do the low fares expire?

Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 08:58 PM
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How far before a flight do the low fares expire?

This is a probably a strange question, but I need to know how far in advance of a flight airlines stop offering their lower fares. There may be no standard amount of time, but I wonder what most airlines do.

My wife and I love to travel and want to start taking some short, spontaneous trips. But our busy schedules only seem to allow us to take vacations if we book out our time way in advance. So we decided that a couple of times a year, we will schedule a 4-5 day vacation several months in advance, but not actually decide where we are going until the last minute. We would really like to wait until just a few days before we leave to decide where to go, but I'm thinking the airlines stop offering their lower fares 7-14 days before the flight. I want to set our deadline to decide before the fares usually go up.

Anyone know what I'm talking about?

PS Im mostly interested in American Airlines (as I am a lifetime Gold AAdvantage member), but let me know if you know if different airlines have different policies.

PPS I know about AAs Net SAAver fares that come out a week or two before the flights, and we will definitely look to those first, but they may not always be going where we want to.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 04:30 AM
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Well, if anyone had the answer to THAT question they'd be making a fortune selling the answer to almost everyone who flies or posts questions on a travel forum. That's probably one of the most asked questions yet there's really NO ANSWER. Even the most savory travelers will tell you it's impossible to predict when airfares will change.

Generally speaking, the closer you get to your depature date the more expensive the fare will be. Your assumption regarding the 7 to 14 advance purchase as being the lowest is simply not true. While you can purchase "reduced rate restricted fare tickets" during that time period they more than likely WILL NOT be the lowest fares that were offered for that particular flight but they will be lower than the "full fare" ticket.

Airlines generally have "fare sales" several times a year (Spring and Fall are popular "fare sale" times) but you have to travel within certain time periods. You already know about AA's Net Saver Fares and other Airlines have their own versions but as you know the destination choices are limited.

There are several websites like www.kayack.com that track air fares for specific itineraries and will alert you when airfares drop so you can purchase your tickest at a good fare or maybe get a "voucher" for the difference between a new low fare and the price you may have paid earlier.

I'm sure others more knowledgeable about airfares will add to this post.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 07:30 AM
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On AA I find that I can get generally get low fares up to 14d in advance. Not on every flight so I can't be as choosy if fare is important. Usually not the rock bottom price, but not exorbitant last min fares.

From 14 to 7d good deals can still be found, and if I book with less than 7 days I expect to pay a lot more.

As A_traveler says there is no hard fast rule - just relaying my experience.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 07:39 AM
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In general, discount increases with advance purchase at intervals of 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, etc up to 30 days or so. For sales discounts may be available up to 90 days out from travel. Availability of short notice discounted fares depends on demand. If there are lots of unsold seats the airline may offer last minute specials, though with flights so full these days that does not happen as often as in the past. There are still some instances where it does. Continental, for example, posts selected routes weekly that require departure on Saturday and return Monday or Tuesday, and other airlines have similar promotions. You can also look for last minute fares on other sites, such as www.lastminute.com
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 09:15 AM
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More/less restrictions are also route specific. For example, AA has no choice but to duke it out with JetBlue on many JFK-??? routes. They lowered the cancellation fee to $25, just like JetBlue and they also sell many of the routes as one way, so the fares are the same all the way up to walk up time. That's true to just about any route where 2 heavies are competing. One has to do what the other is doing to stay competitive.

I was really shocked to see AA.com return with a $122 one way fare MIA-ORD for the same day travel, and it wasn't a mistake. At the end I didn't need it, but as everybody already said, this example clearly shows there are no set rules.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 12:13 PM
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There are also fares, on UA anyway, that have a 3-day advance purchase requirement. Problem is that that can sell out farther in advance than 3 or 4 or 5days.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 01:05 PM
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Thanks all. I sort of guessed that there was not a definite answer.

A_Traveler -- I'm not assuming that the 7 or 14 day advance fares are the lowest. I know that sometimes the lowest fares are loaded in the day the flight is open for booking (and are limited and sell out), but I will not have that luxury.

My experience on American is I often see fares expire 7 days in advance, but I wasn't sure if all routes worked that way. It sounds like they don't, but for lack of better info, that sounds like a good deadline for me to use.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 03:43 PM
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<<<I know that sometimes the lowest fares are loaded in the day the flight is open for booking (and are limited and sell out), but I will not have that luxury.>>>>

That makes very little sense from a business perspective.
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Old Mar 24th, 2008, 01:39 PM
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Does it depend on the airline?

I've been watching Southwest for a couple of months, started with $88, down to $80, up to $97, down to $67, up to $80, last was on Friday March 21, now the cheapest are gone, only business for March 28-30 flight.
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Old Mar 25th, 2008, 06:41 AM
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You mentioned American's Net SAAver fares. Not that I could manage a quick getaway this weekend or next, but I get the notices in my E-mail each week, just in case something looks interesting.

They always seem to be last-minute bargains to and from AA hubs. This week's list has a lot of great fares out of DFW or MIA. Problem: I'm nowhere near those airports, so an expensive last-minute fare to get to them in the first place would offset the savings.

You can occasionally find something though. I've done a couple of long weekends in Europe as a result of these. I'm not sure that blocking out time far in advance and then hoping there will be a Net SAAver fare to match your needs is any guarantee however.
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