When is the best time to buy an airline ticket?

Looking for the cheapest airline ticket online ? Try to purchase your ticket from the airline website on a Wednesday from midnight to 1a.m. in the time zone of the airline’s “home base.” (For instance, Delta is headquartered in Utah Atlanta and United currently calls Chicago home.)

AARP reasons that on Wednesday midnight, the computer systems of most airlines get rid of the reserved but unbooked lower fare reservations. This refers to airline tickets that have been booked or reserved in advance but were either not purchased or cancelled.

This tips is valid in US but for other countries, the day or time may be different when they actually run the cleanup of their ticket reservation database.

FareCast, airline fare predictorIf Wednesday is not the most convenient time for you, then you need to check out the hottest new site for airline fare prediction : Farecast. Farecast launched in the summer of 2006 with a witty name and a clever premise: using data mining and a huge library of historical data, it would be able to predict a rise and fall in airfares.

Farecast offers predictions for about 75 departure cities in the U.S. It also tells you how confident it is about that prediction and shows the average fare for that trip going back two or three months.If you want to make a purchase, Farecast often sends you directly to the airline’s Web site.Some airlines pay Farecast a fee for referring customers, though the company hopes to make most of its money from advertising sales.

Imagine, for a moment, that you wanted to travel towards the middle of December from say Orlando to Houston, TX for your christmas and New Year vacations between school times or say for a 2 week training seminar.  You’d zip over to Farecast, and it would be able to tell you which airline were at their optimal prices at the time, and whether or not the price was likely to significantly change over the next few days. Here’s an example:

Fare prediction from orlando to houston

As you can see, it issues a recomendation for you to buy, followed by the degree of accuracy of the prediction, and a very pretty looking chart. How do they do it? On their technology page, they say:

“We use data-mining algorithms to search for patterns, in the accumulated airfare data, which are associated with significant price changes. These patterns are represented and stored in models, and the models are then rigorously trained. Once created and trained, we use these models to predict the future. Then, new, current airfares can be scored by the model to answer the question, “Is the price going up or down in the future?”

In other words, they probably are training neural networks per route to learn seasonal patterns to pricing data, and then to keep them accurate, using feedback between their simulated passengers and what the next day actually becomes. Very cool, in my opinion

Source for wednesday reset tip: Lifehack.org, Sound Money Tips