Time is your enemy when booking flights. In this post, we’ll talk about why you shouldn’t wait when booking a flight. This is true whether it’s a cash or points ticket.
If you’ve read posts of mine before, you may have heard me use the term ‘fare bucket’. That’s the technical term for the “general rules of your ticket”. The type of fare bucket connected with your ticket defines whether you can upgrade, how flexible your ticket is and whether you’re entitled to a refund upon cancellation.
Fare buckets are like rungs on a ladder, the rungs at the bottom are the cheapest and the rungs at the top are the most expensive. As you climb the ticket ladder, your ticket rules become more open & flexible, but also more expensive.
This is important to understand – the average traveller has no idea where they are on this spectrum. They just see the ticket price and rarely look at the details associated with it. They might be on the threshold between a reasonably priced ticket and a ticket that’s far more expensive. Ticket prices change in real-time so waiting can be a real problem – come back 10 minutes later and that cheaper ticket has gone.
Some airlines let you pay a small fee to hold a fare and this can help ensure you pay the best fare if you’re reasonably certain you will make the booking within 24 hours. I always utilise this facility if it’s available. There’s nothing worse than going to book a flight and the price has skyrocketed while you’ve been getting other things sorted.
Points tickets work differently than cash tickets. There are still fare buckets, but generally, there’s only one fare bucket per cabin for a points ticket (as opposed to dozens of buckets for the equivalent cash tickets). The price of a points ticket depends on two simple factors; the date defines whether you’re travelling at a time when the airline charges more points (peak/off peak), whilst other taxes and fees are dependent on the route and how much the airline wants to eke out of you for carrier-imposed surcharges (read more about that here.)
You shouldn’t wait when booking a points ticket (or when purchasing an upgrade) because whilst the price won’t change… the availability will. The single largest issue when spending points is availability. So if the stars have aligned, and you have found the availability, book quickly. There’s a chance somebody else is pondering the exact same ticket and if they beat you to it – game over. I’ve seen points tickets become available and get snapped up in less than 5 minutes. It’s a brutal world!
The nice thing about points tickets vs cash is two-fold. First, you can often hold them longer than a cash ticket. Where a cash ticket can sometimes be held for 24 hours, there are airlines that will hold points tickets for 72 hours. Secondly, if you cancel a points ticket, you can usually get all the points plus cash & fees back. Something that’s much more difficult with a cash ticket.
If you need help researching your next trip, we’re here to help