Cheapest air fares can be booked five weeks before departure, survey

The best time to book a flight to gain the cheapest fare is, on average, five weeks ahead of the departure date, Telegraph Travel has reported, citing a separate survey.

The survey by flight price comparison website, Skyscanner.net, reached the conclusion after analysing over 200 million searches and the actual prices paid by customers over three years.

The best time to book for Britain’s leading summer destinations ranged from 3 weeks before travel for those heading to Greece, and 21 weeks ahead for those going to the USA. Skyscanner also found that those who booked for the USA at the optimum time saved GBP120 compared to those that booked during the week of departure.

However those travelling as a group or family could run the risk of missing out on availability if they leave booking flights to just five weeks before departure, the report warns.

According to Sophie Butler, the Telegraph’s advice columnist, it pays to book early as generally the more seats available, the cheaper the tickets will be. However, if many seats remain available near to the departure date, especially during non-peak, non-holiday periods, the airline may hold a seat sale, offering last-minute bargains.

Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s consumer editor, said: ‘The best advice for when to book flights depends both on when you want to travel, and how flexible you are able to be.

‘If you are a family who wants to fly during the school summer holidays on a particular date, you should certainly book now. If you leave it later there is a very high risk you will pay a much higher fare, and may not even be able to book the flights you want at all.’

A spokesperson for Skyscanner said: ‘There may be other times throughout the year when customers might get a cheap flight and of course many people will be more comfortable booking further in advance, especially as prices close to departure can be quite volatile.’

If customers want to get the best deal they should research prices and track fares by signing up for price alerts, which allow travellers to see when low fares become available, she added.