Even if you’ve set seven flight alerts and check airline sites every day, it’s hard to shake that constant fear that you might be missing out on great flight deals.
Plenty of “experts” have come up with all kinds of strategies to beat the system, but which one is right? Should you really wait until Tuesday afternoon to hunt for tickets? Are those last-minute sales actually saving you money? Is the cheap fare even worth it if you’re going to have to pay for all of your bags?
So many questions—but now we’re finally starting to get some answers. The Krazy Coupon Lady took one for the team and waded into the scary world of airline ticket purchases to find out when the real best time is to buy tickets. She even broke it down for us by airline, so you can figure out the best strategy for your personal favorite carrier.
Here are the best times to book tickets on seven major airlines:
Sometimes the rumors are true: Tuesday at 3 p.m. EST actually is the best time to book on Southwest. This is when Southwest’s site matches other carriers’ sale fares.
Southwest also has special sales at a few points during the year. In the last few years, the carrier has had a big Black Friday sale that lasts for up to a few days. The special fares starting at around $59 are typically good for travel through the winter months, and include blackout dates.
The famous 72-hour sales happen twice a year, usually in early June and October. The sales typically start on a Tuesday and offer flights from $49-$149 each way, depending on distance.
Check directly on Southwest.com and follow the airline on Facebook and Twitter to catch the sale as soon as it starts. Be prepared to throw some digital elbows, though—last June, so many people tried to get in on the sale that they crashed Southwest’s entire site.
2. Virgin America
Virgin America offers a few major sales each year, mostly during the summer and around Thanksgiving.
Their “Biggest Deal of the Year” sale has happened in early July for the last two years. One-way tickets start at as low as $39, but they’re only available for eight hours.
Over the past four years, the airline has also celebrated its birthday (Aug. 8) with special fares for an entire week. The sale typically starts on the Monday of the week of the 8th. Last year, one-way flights started at $49.
Virgin America’s Black Friday sale usually lasts for eight hours and offers flights starting at $29 one way. The Cyber Monday sale has featured discounts on regularly priced fares: up to 25 percent off in 2015, and up to 30 percent off last year.
Last January, their “Big Winter Sale” was so popular, they brought it back the next week for an additional two days. The sale offered prices as low as $34.
JetBlue also tends to offer surprise sales in the fall. Last year, they had a two-day sale in early September, and another one a couple weeks later, with fares starting at just $39. In October they dropped fares to all destinations by 30 percent, and their “Fares that Sleigh” flash sale in November offered one-way flight deals starting at $39.
And then there’s the holiday season. Last year’s “12 Days of Christmas” sale offered (you guessed it!) 12 days of different savings, beginning in early December. Each day had a different deal for domestic and international flights, from $20 flights to California and Florida to $45 fares to Cuba.
4. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines likes to take care of their own. Many of the best flight deals are exclusive to Alaska residents or members of Club 49, the airline’s free mileage program. Club 49 members get access to weekly sale prices every Tuesday, as well as other perks like free checked bags and annual discounts on flights.
For the rest of us, the beginning of the week is the best time to buy. Every Monday, AlaskaAir.com offers new online specials, often starting at $59 for a one-way flight. If you subscribe to the Alaska Airlines Insider newsletter, you’ll also receive flight offers each Tuesday.
The week of Cyber Monday is also a prime time for flight deals. Every year, Alaska offers major discounts on flights across North America, with one-way fares starting at $59.
Delta’s all about the season of giving, with its biggest sales usually coming around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For the last four years, Delta has started its weeklong sale on the Monday before Black Friday, giving customers a whole seven days to use their frequent flier miles to take advantage of discounted awards tickets.
Delta also announces the occasional special one-day flash sale on its social media channels, so keep an eye on those.
Like Delta, Frontier loves the holidays. This past Black Friday, the Denver-based, low-cost carrier offered discounted fares starting at $19 one-way, plus 50 percent off round-trip flights.
If your food coma makes you miss Black Friday shopping, you get another chance on Cyber Monday. For three years now, Frontier has offered similar discounts, with one-way flight deals starting as low as $19. The airline also had one-day promo codes for an additional 25 percent off those flights, dropping some prices under $15.
For two years now, Hawaiian Airlines has tried to console people suffering from seasonal affective disorder with a winter sale in early to mid-January that featured one-way flights to the islands starting at $169. The sale only lasted for a few days each time, and applied to travel between January and March.
The tropical carrier has also had some stellar Cyber Monday deals, with round-trip flights from the mainland starting as low as $378.
[h/t: The Krazy Coupon Lady]