Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, new rules have been imposed on travelers to mitigate the spread of the virus. In 2021, US airports screened two million travelers in a single day, and passengers got fewer deals because there were fewer flights and demand was high. The best advice given due to the increased prices was to snag a ticket if you could afford to pay, instead of waiting around hoping for prices to drop. For this reason, one question that could have popped into your mind is, “how far in advance can I book a flight?” Read on to find out as we also tell you whether you are allowed to cancel should you change your mind.
It Depends on Carrier
Skyscanner details how different US carriers have varying rules on booking a flight. For instance, in Alaska Airlines, you can book 331 days before departure but only when paying cash and using the Alaska Airlines app or website to book your flight. The same case applies to booking a flight in advance on America Airlines. However, while on American Airlines it is strictly 331 days whether you are using cash, miles, or flying partner airlines, with Alaska Airlines, you can book 365 days in advance for an award flight or when using certain partner airlines. Major airlines such as Delta Airlines, Pen Air, Fiji Airways, and Hainan Airlines allow you to book an average of 330 days in advance. In others like Lufthansa, Korean Air, Iberia, and Qatar Airways, you can book 360 days in advance.
The great thing about booking is the 24-hour cancellation rule because something could come up, disrupting your plans to travel. Consequently, the Department of Transportation has a 24-hour refund regulation stating that airlines flying in the United States, including international carriers, must issue a full refund when a reservation is canceled within 24 hours. You should not expect to book in January for a flight leaving in July and still be refunded when you cancel. The clock starts ticking immediately after the purchase has been completed, but on the other hand, you are also allowed to hold the reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without paying. The rule comes in handy when you want to lock a ticket at a low price before deciding whether you want to go all the way in and make the payment. However, airlines can have their policies, such as when booking with American Airlines, your fare is put on hold instead of them refunding payments. Also, according to CN Traveler, the 24-hour cancellation and refund policy only applies when you purchase your ticket directly from the airline. It is crucial to note that the 24-hour cancellation and refund policy applies to flights booked seven days or more before departure. Any flight booked less than seven days before the flight’s departure is not eligible for cancellation or a refund.
Should You Book in Advance?
We have always been advised that the early bird catches the worm, but CNBC published that is not the case when booking flights in advance. Usually, most passengers look for specific seats that they fear will become unavailable once the plane starts filling up. Therefore, they are tempted to book as early as ten months in advance. When traveling as a group and you prefer being seated together, booking early is much better to help you choose preferred spots. Besides, most sources believe that if there are any award seats you want to grab, then the best time is to book as early as possible.
However, booking a flight 6-11 months in advance costs you at least $50 more. This premium price usually gives airlines room to adjust prices once competition kicks in, and they are forced to lower the prices a few months before departure. Still, the extra $50 is not much to ask for, considering that you are getting a lot of say in where you and your friends sit. Moreover, if you are prone to anxiety, booking earlier than others gets you the peace of mind needed, knowing that you will not be scrambling last minute for a seat. When money is quite tight, you can opt to wait until five months to departure when the fare will be 20% less than if you had booked 11 months in advance. The prime booking window falls between three weeks and four months before departure, and you can pay much less, usually within 5% of the lowest rates. If you are a risk-taker, then as CheapAir published, you are most likely to push your luck and book your ticket two to three weeks in advance. You may enjoy cheap fare, but the seat options are limited; it will be by a stroke of luck if you can find an aisle or window seat. The fares will be higher when booking less than two weeks to departure because airlines know you are desperate, but it will be much higher when booking a few days to departure. As the article informs us, you can pay as much as $208 more than what airlines charge during the prime booking window.
Myths about Best Time to Book a Flight
- Booking a flight in advance has attracted different myths, one of which is that the best day to book is on a Tuesday. According to Nomadic Matt, this old belief stems from the fact that in the past, most airlines would have flight deals on Tuesday, leading people to believe they should always be on the lookout on Tuesdays. Nowadays, there are a lot of factors that go into an airline’s decision when setting the price of those tickets. Such include weather, demand, seasons, and much more. All the same, booking 21 days before departure signals how much you want to be on the flight, resulting in hiked fares. It is best to stick to the prime booking window when you are on a budget.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson