HOW TO FIND CHEAP U.S. DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
HOW TO FIND CHEAP U.S. DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
Select your destination to see our best flight planning tips:
On average, travelers spend over 6 hours planning their flights for each trip. Wouldn’t it make sense to take just 5 minutes to learn how to book the cheapest flights, saving up to $439 (our current estimate of the average savings opportunity on your next US Domestic flight)?
Read on as we tell you everything you need to know about U.S. Domestic Flights, and conclude on the 5 winning strategies to save.
HOW MUCH CAN I SAVE ON MY U.S. DOMESTIC AIRFARE?
Many travelers wonder if it’s worth all that time and effort to look for cheap flights. We have an easy answer for this: absolutely.
To better quantify your potential savings, we look at the difference in fare between the best available deal on any U.S. Domestic route, and the worst price you could pay for the same seat, given all the different dates that you could travel if booking today. We run millions of simulations and establish a Best-to-Worst Ratio - a measure of airfare volatility and affordability.
U.S. DOMESTIC FARE AFFORDABILITY AND VOLATILITY
Avg. Cheap Ticket$255
Avg. Distance to Destination1,167 miles
Exp. Avg. Cheap Ticket Increase- Tomorrow + $2.06- Next Week + $10.40Number of Price Changes Next Week 1.31
SAVINGS OPPORTUNITY: HIGH
While the average U.S. domestic round-trip coach ticket is priced at $255, with a minimum of $201, the Best-to-Worst Ratio is 3.2x on average. In other words, you could end up booking your U.S. Domestic flight at up to 3.2x the cheapest available fare, or $640 -therefore paying $439 more than you should.
The Best-to-Worst Ratio also varies significantly by route. We have measured it at up to 11.0x on certain routes. Here are some examples of the current ratio on popular U.S. Domestic routes:
From San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles:
- The average price today for round trip cheap flights is $153, with a minimum at $145
- The Best-to-Worst Ratio is 3.0x
From Los Angeles (LAX) to New York City (NYC):
- The average price today for cheap flights is $373, with a minimum at $256
- The Best-to-Worst Ratio is 5.2x
From New York (NYC) to MIAMI (MIA)
- The average price today for cheap flights is $230, with a minimum at $127
- The Best-to-Worst Ratio is 7.2x
From Chicago (ORD) to New York (NYC):
- The average price today for cheap flights is $159, with a minimum at $81
- The Best-to-Worst Ratio is 6.8x
From Seattle (SEA) to Denver (DEN):
- The average price today for cheap flights is $197, with a minimum at $118
- The Best-to-Worst Ratio is 3.2x
The bottom line is that:
- Investing time and energy into becoming a more informed buyer pays off
- Certain airports and routes are structurally more volatile than others, and it pays to know whether you are flying from a low volatility origin or not.
HOW TO SAVE ON YOUR U.S. DOMESTIC AIRFARE?
We now know you can save on U.S. Domestic flights. The question remains -how can you lock in those savings? There are three main strategies to follow in order to get the cheapest fare possible:
- Optimizing when you fly and when you buy: by far the best way to secure the cheapest flight is to combine flexibility in your departure and return dates with better timing of your purchase. Over 80% of the potential savings are captured that way -so much so that we explain how to play the timing game here.
- Broadening your search spectrum: because of the variations in Best to Worst ratios, investigating alternatives in terms of origin, connecting and destination airports can pay off. The best tool for that type of search is the ITA Matrix as it can display more route and connecting flight options than your usual search engine.
- Alternative search techniques can in some cases unlock better fares, although we find that those savings are rare when flying within the U.S. Alternative search techniques include:
- Browsing fares in incognito mode
- Simulating searches from outside the U.S
- Using hidden city ticketing -a technique we do not recommend as it breaks the ticketing and service rules of most airlines in the U.S.
- Combining flight + bus searches to broaden your choice of airports and routes
WHEN TO FLY and WHEN TO BUY to get the cheapest flight ?
The most important strategy to save on airfares is to optimize when to travel, and when to book your trip.
Travelers know that airfares tend to go up over time, but did you know that fares also often drop? In fact, the average fare goes up 28 times and down 25 times in the 180 days before departure. That means that the price of your flight will change at least once every three and a half days!
In addition, fares can change up to multiple times per day. On average, 1 in 4 flights that pop up during any online search will change within 24 hours.
What you need to know to save on airfare:
- Airfares vary drastically between weekend and weekday airfares, with weekend flights (including extended weekend trips) being priced up to 3x higher than weekday fares. Sunday is the most expensive day to travel and costs on average $50 or 16% more than traveling on a Tuesday which is the cheapest.
- The 14-day and 21-day advance purchase cutoffs are significant for flights. On average, expect an increase of 39% if you book less than 3 weeks in advance (vs. if you booked before), and an additional increase of 14% if you book less than 2 weeks in advance.
- Historically, the optimal time to buy cheap roundtrips is about 74 days before the departure date.
The FLYR fare calendar below summarizes the U.S. Domestic fare movements in the next few weeks, with “blackout” departure dates identified in red (these will be the most expensive days to travel). Pick a departure date shown in green, and you can maximize your chances of getting a great deal on your round trip flight for most return dates.
BEYOND THE FARE
While your biggest savings by far will be associated with your airfares, here are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Check TripAdvisor’s convenient page for baggage fee information
- Consider the quality of your flight with Route Happy
- Be mindful of various cancellation fees and how to avoid them with this great article by The Points Guy
- Take into consideration the cost of public transportation to and from the airport
PUTTING IT TOGETHER: 5 STEPS TO CHEAPER FLIGHTS
To save, follow those 5 tips on your next trip:
- Use FLYR to predict fare increases. If you need time to decide, you can use the FareKeep tool to lock in today’s price and minimize your risk on the best flight deals for as little as $3 for 7 days.
- Try to book 3 weeks or more in advance.
- Know the Best to Worst ratio for your route and departure airport, and adapt your search technique and flexibility based on your potential savings opportunity
- Avoid the expensive travel dates shown on the FLYR fare calendar, above.
- Check out our destination-specific pages here for even more specific suggestions on ways to save.
Created and Updated by the FLYR Research Team, as of August 17th, 2015