Are Last-Minute Flights Cheaper?

When it comes to flight prices, one thing is certain – fluctuation. Flights prices fluctuate all the time, though not significantly in some cases.

Sometimes, a flight could be more expensive when booked in advance; sometimes, it is cheaper last minute.

Booking a last-minute flight often saves ‘emergency’ travelers a good amount of money, but the problem is that it is high risk.

Booking a month before departure can as well be cheaper, but not as cheap as last-minute flights (if gotten right).  

In general, last-minute flights are often cheaper, especially if the flight still has a significant number of empty seats or canceled flights.

However, if all the seats are almost taken, then the price will most likely be high. In this article, there are a couple of tips that help get the best out of last-minute flights.

Another factor determining the price of last-minute flights is whether its destination is a short or long haul. If the flight is short-haul, it will be cheaper and vice versa.

How Many Days Before a Flight is the Best Price?

Flights booked too early can cost much; the same thing for flights booked too late. Even though last-minute flights can be cheaper, they also cost much. Generally speaking, the safe spot is usually somewhere in between.

According to CheapAir.com, the best time to book flights for the best deal is about 70 days before departure. That’s an average derived from an analysis of 917 million airfares. So, it’s fairly reliable.

Do Airlines Sell Empty Seats Last-minute?

Whether or not airlines sell empty seat last-minute depends on how many seats are available and the airline’s policy.

There’s no general policy for all airlines to sell or not sell empty seat last-minute. If it’s not stated anywhere on their website, the next option is to contact them.

That said, last-minute tickets can be bought within 14 days before the scheduled departure. And course, the prices will vary for different destinations.

Sometimes, when you book a week before departure, it can be cheaper, while some other times, booking last-minute gets you a better deal.

As earlier mentioned, it depends on the number of available seats and whether or not the flight is a short-haul destination.

Do Airlines Offer Discounts for Last-minute Flights?

Airlines often offer significant discounts for last-minute flight bookings. This is because there is a lot of flight cancellations few days before departure.

So, airlines try to make up for those vacancies by giving discounts for last-minute bookings.

One of the things that you can do to take advantage of last-minute flight deals is to sign up for alerts from flight comparison websites such as Skyscannerkayak, and CheapOair. These sites will send you notifications whenever a flight deal becomes available, allowing you to book your flight and save some money in the process!

Another method that you can explore to get great last-minute deals on flights is to book with websites that specialize in last minute travel. Some of these websites include:

  • Last Minute Travel
  • Airfare Watchdog
  • Secret Flying
  • The Flight Deal
  • Expedia’s Last Minute Travel deals page.

All of these websites have exceptional software that finds you the best flight deals available from your home airport.

Tips to Get the Best Deals Out of Last-Minute Flights

Late-minute flights can be tricky – they can be cheaper or way expensive. But with the following tips, you can get the best deals from booking super late.

  • Be Flexible in Your Search: flexibility in your travel dates and location can help you get cheap last-minute flights. Focus your search on last-minute international flight tickets to different locations, then compare their fares before booking.
  • Travel with Redeye Flights: Red-eye flights means nighttime flights. Those kinds of flights are typically cheaper than daytime flights. As long as it doesn’t affect your purpose of traveling, you can save a lot of money.
  • Use a Low-cost Carrier: Another trick to finding cheaper last-minute tickets is to book a budget-friendly airline if you can manage with less leg space and fewer amenities.
  • Use Airlines Miles: Collecting miles when purchasing last-minute flights will save you a good amount of money.

Also, traveling during the middle of the week is a budget-friendly way to travel. And when you book off-season, it can determine whether or not you will get the best deals off a last-minute flight.

Can You Fly Standby for Free?

Standby isn’t a guarantee because, in recent years, airlines put in more effort not to have unavailable seats. So, standby travelers are more difficult to come by. However, they very much exist.

A couple of standby seats are free, but most can cost you money. The freebies are often given to the elite miles members or those who’ve already bought tickets in business or first class. However, that varies by airline. That’s why checking is always crucial.

People who purchase more expensive, refundable economy tickets might also get standby. But standby prices and policies can sometimes change with zero notice. Standby seats can cost you, but how much do they cost?

Standby prices all depend on airlines. So, check your airline’s website or app for their latest update, or you can contact them. That said, here are the standby costs of some major airlines:

Delta

For earlier flights for same-day standby costs $75. The only exception is if you have a high status in the airline’s SkyMiles program. You can find more about Delta’s standby policy.

JetBlue

You can’t get standby for every route with JetBlue, but when it is available, it’s usually free. However, you will have to contact JetBlue way before your original departure time. You can find more about JetBlue’s standby policy.

American

For flight destinations within the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and North America, American standby will cost you $75 for earlier flights for same-day standby.

On the other hand, AAdvantage elite members don’t get charged, as well as those traveling on first class, business class, military, or high-fare coach tickets. You can find more about American’s standby policy.

Alaska Air

Alaska’s same-day standby is free on the same date of departure. But only for a couple of routes that consists of cities in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Alaska. As for other standby requests, it costs $25. You can find more about Alaska’s standby policy.

Frontier

Only elite members of the Frontier EarlyReturn Program are allowed to standby for later or earlier flights for no charge. As for others, there’s a compulsory fee of $99. You can find more about Frontier’s standby policy.

Final Thoughts

Flight prices vary and are influenced by several factors. If you book a flight six months before the departure date, it isn’t an assurance that it’d be cheaper, and booking 2 hours isn’t an assurance for the best deal either.

Airlines work to make it difficult to pinpoint a particular period for a cheaper deal.

The safe spot is usually somewhere in between early and late. However, some of the best deals can be enjoyed from last-minute flights. They carry great deals, but paying attention to the tips in this article is paramount.