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Monday, July 13, 2015

Being a Data Nerd: Using Data to Find Super Cheap Flights

The data geek in me loves to research and research and research before I purchase anything, and airline tickets are no exception. There are plenty of blog posts advising you when you should buy and how to strategically use flight credits. In addition to those, there is another piece of data that will greatly influence supply and demand, more so than purchase date.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t work for all airlines who don’t publish their supply. Because some of my more frequented airlines do not publish their supply, I gather data in there other fashion.

  1. Start looking at flights early and sign up for alert services. and are two that I use. I like Hipmunk’s ability to have several searches open, however, their alert emails are much too slow. I like that Zapta that is quick with alert emails.
  2. Once you know the range of flight prices, you’ll know if you’re buying at a low, medium, or high price.
    1. Keep in mind that price fluctuations typically only rise close to the departure date. For domestic flights, it is usually three weeks from departure, and it is typically 53 days from departures.
    2. For domestic flights, I check throughout the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for price drops.
  3. If flights are very empty, you can predict that the prices will drop and keep dropping until you are just about to depart. You'll need to get this data by going to the airline website and go through the purchasing process to see the seat selections. Note you don't actually have to buy the seats to see how many seats were available. See my photos for example.
Both flights are about $900. Silly cheap.

The flights going overseas was so empty that the airline pretty much comped the Austin to San Francisco leg of the trip. The top two photos show that the trip originating from San Francisco or Austin at the same price.  The photo below shows the amount of seats remaining on the flights just three weeks away from the flight date. These prices were a 25% (over $300) less than typical prices.

Look at all those empty seats!
Now you know what kind of data to collect. Start collecting data now, and save a respectable sum.