I'll show you my airfare data if you show me yours. Finding the best flight deals remains among the dark arts.
In the battle for the hearts and wallets of travelers intent on booking cheap flights, Expedia and Google disagree on the best day of the week to book a flight.
Expedia, in partnership with the Airlines Reporting Corp., said Sundays are the best, while Google basically said that’s false because there’s really no particular day of the week to find the cheapest flight.
The three companies, Expedia, the Airlines Reporting Corp., and Google didn’t discuss the issue during a travel industry or tech roundtable, but released dueling reports on booking and flying trends in the last two months.
Based on Airlines Reporting Corp. data for roundtrip airfares for flights beginning in the U.S. from January to August this year, Expedia issued a report Wednesday that counseled flyers to book on Sundays to save around 5 percent on U.S. domestic flights and up to 15 percent on international flights on average versus booking on Fridays.
In its own blog post on similar themes that it released August 31, Google, leveraging five years of airline fare data, essentially scoffed at the notion that there is a best day to book. [See Google’s methodology below.]
“There isn’t much value in purchasing your tickets on a certain day of the week — sorry, Tuesday!” Google wrote.
In fact, while Expedia looked to Sundays for discounts of up to 15 percent on average on U.S. originating international flights versus booking on Fridays, Google stated that over the last five years flyers could find smallish deals that averaged nearly 2 percent lower when booked midweek versus on the weekends.
Not to quibble, but the two reports also disagreed about Mondays.
Expedia advised travelers to avoid departures on Saturdays through Mondays, “which are the priciest days,” but Google wrote that Monday departures can be relatively cheap.
“On average, flights that depart on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday have been 12 percent cheaper than weekend departures,” Google wrote. “If you exclude international destinations, the potential savings jump even higher to 20 percent.”
The two reports agreed that it’s wise to book flights well in advance and to avoid last-minute bookings, but they offered different details on the timing.
The Expedia-Airlines Reporting Corp. report urged flyers to book domestic flights “at least one month” prior to departure, and international flights six months ahead to save an average of 10 percent compared with procrastinating flyers or those who had to book at the last minute.
Google, on the other hand, said airfares are usually at their lowest on average 44 days before a domestic flight, and regularly are at their cheapest 21-60 days ahead.
What Expedia and Google agree on is that publishing reports on the best times to book is an opportune time for self-promotion.
Expedia urged travelers to use the Expedia app’s price tracking and predictions feature for notifications about airfare changes.
Google, meanwhile, mined a similar theme.
“Toggle on tracking for your destination and dates of travel, and we’ll email you if prices change substantially,” the Google blog stated. “Or, if you’re more flexible on when to travel, you can turn on tracking for ‘Any dates’ to get notified of price drops for flights departing in the next 3 to 6 months.”
Note: Google stated it used the following methodology for its findings: “To produce the insights in this post, we calculated average round trip airfares observed Aug 1, 2017 through Aug 1, 2022 on Google Flights, for 6- to 9-day trips and 13- to 16-day trips departing from the top 4,000 markets in the U.S. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we examined 6- to 9-day trips and 13- to 16-day trips with departure dates before the holiday and return dates after the holiday. For spring break, we examined 6- to 9-day trips and 13- to 16-day trips beginning in March or April, and for summer vacation we examined 6- to 9-day trips and 13- to 16-day trips beginning in July or August.“
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Photo credit: Even some of the largest holders of consumer data, Expedia and Google, can't agree on the best day to book a flight. Pictured is Singapore Changi Airport. Changi Airport Group