Tuesday Tickets – Airline Pricing

During May and June, I collected airline prices to see if I could figure out when the best time to purchase might be.

I also did this so I could create a Toastmasters speech, which was recorded in a TV studio.  Please watch the video if you’d like to hear the story about whether or not Tuesday is the best day to buy tickets.  (My speech starts 15 minutes in if you don’t want to watch the whole Toastmasters meeting.)  The speech also describes the data and how it was collected.

The results … there wasn’t an obvious day of the week to buy tickets.  However, there were some surprises.  I was surprised that Southwest wasn’t cheapest and the amount of day to day variance was pretty high.  It seems the best technique to buy a ticket is to check daily, and buy when the price drops.  And if it isn’t obvious, use a site like Orbitz that aggregates prices.

Although the data doesn’t prove this, it appears that airlines have a schedule of how many seats on a  flight should be sold depending on how many days until the flight departs.  If they have sold fewer seats than what’s on the schedule, they lower their prices.  If they have sold more, they raise the prices.  This is very rational behavior if you have a lot data to figure out what the best schedule should be.  Most of us don’t.

This post doesn’t have a great moral or lesson, but I found it interesting and thought you might as well.  Please feel free to share your comments.

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I will happily share the data with anyone that would like to play with it.  All I ask is that you attribute Mark Stiving of PragmaticPricing.com if you publish any observations or results, and you also copy me so I can read them.  To request the data please send an email to Mark@PragmaticPricing.com with “Airline pricing data” in the subject and I will send the excel file to you.