This article is meant to give readers an idea of the best date and times to book a flight at an ‘affordable’ price. Though the data was sourced from North America and Europe (analyses based on approximately 7 million sales over the course of Q4 2015 – Q1 2016), it is relevant in the Ghanaian context given the increasing online ticket bookings in recent times.
There’s plenty of hearsay about when is the best time to book a flight, but when are consumers actually making their booking? Although it’s been suggested that you book on Tuesday 21 days or further from your departure date, we actually found the most popular time to book was Monday during working hours. Maybe we can attribute this to the Monday Blues.
While nearly 22% of bookings occur on Monday, between Tuesday and Thursday we see a dip and plateau in booking volume before it rises again on Friday when about 17% of bookings are made. Refer to the graph below to see the full distribution of bookings made.
Now let’s drill down a bit further and take a closer look at during which hours of the day customers are booking flights. Between 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. is the peak time for flight bookings and booking volume remains pretty steady between 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Then of course, you find very few bookings taking place during sleeping hours, outside of a few night owls. The complete hour-by-hour breakdown is displayed in the graph below.
So to summarize, Monday and Friday are the days of the week that experience the most booking volume (specifically during the afternoon hours). Then we see a not so unexpected drop in booking during weekend evenings (Friday and Saturday), before weekend traffic picks up Sunday evening (between 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.), possibly as people knock off the remaining items from their weekend to-do list while planning for the week ahead.
After Monday, it’s back to the midweek grind where it’s possible consumers are too enthralled in their day-to-day tasks to look ahead to travel planning. We’d recommend carrying out a communication to prospective travellers during the hours they are most engaged in the booking process as this is when they’re most likely to engage with special offers, look into alternate routes and days and are focused on finalizing plans, rather than engaging with a different online activity.
How far in advance do customers book?
A second very important component to fully understand when customers are booking flights is knowing how far in advance customers are booking from their departure date. Our data found that on average consumers book 78 days in advance of their departure date. For a low-cost carrier, this number inflates to 81.4 days, while those flying via a legacy carrier book on average 55.4 days from their departure date.
How Far in Advance Do Customers Book?
Next, if we look at the number of travellers within a booking, we uncover some additional insights. Generally, speaking the larger the party, the further out in advance the booking is made on average. The days from date of departure breakdown as follows:
1 person: 43.5 days
2 people: 71.9 days
3 people 79.3 days
4 or more people: 98.1 days
The largest portions of bookings happen between zero and 10 days from departure when 23% of customers are making a purchase. We see a fairly steady increase in booking volume the closer it gets to the day of departure.
Finally, if we combine the time of booking with the basket value, we also find a fascinating pattern. Aside from one major discrepancy, the more expensive a flight is, the further out in advance that it is booked. The lone outliers are flights booked under 50 euros, which are purchased on average 89 days from departure. We can assume that such bookings are encouraged from promotional offers, showing the ability of airline marketers to alter demand.
The best way for airlines to grow is by understanding and connecting directly with their customers at opportune times. This all begins by looking into and leveraging valuable data insights such as when consumers are making bookings.