Plane tickets are usually available about a year in advance – but when should you book your flights to get the best deal?
I am prompted to write this after one of our climbers, Perry, gave me a piece of advice that I hadn’t come across before.
He told me that he was going to wait a few days before booking his flight to Kilimanjaro as it is cheaper to buy plane tickets on a weekend, particularly Sunday nights.
Perry told me that he didn’t actually know if this was true or not, but the information had come from a reliable source and he wanted to check it out.
Sure enough, come the weekend Perry looked for a plane ticket to Kilimanjaro – and the price of flight tickets had indeed fallen by exactly three hundred dollars.
To be honest, I was gobsmacked by this. I have been travelling for my job for almost thirty years and I’ve never heard this.
But was it just luck? Well, a quick internet search would suggest that it is in fact true: flights booked at a weekend are cheaper than those booked during the week.
It has even been confirmed in a study. According to the ARC Study Report for 2019, many people save up to 20% on their plane tickets, and some can save as much as 36%, by booking on a Sunday.
Travel at the end of the week
The study also found out that flights that depart on Thursdays or Fridays tend to be cheaper. Travellers who set off on these days pay around 10% less for their tickets than those who don’t.
Of course, there’s another advantage with travelling towards the end of the week. The more weekends you include in your trip, the fewer the number of days you need to subtract from your annual leave at work. So if you have booked a six-day trek, it’s possible to take just five days in total from your annual holiday allowance, particularly if you’re coming from Europe. (If you’re coming from the USA or Canada it’s a little trickier due to the extra travel time required to get to Kilimanjaro.)
So why should it be that the price of flights depend both on when you fly, and when you book?
Well, the best reason we can come up with is that airlines are looking to exploit business travellers. As most business travellers will prefer to go and come back within the week, rather than staying over a weekend, so flights at the end of the week are cheaper. This theory seems to be backed up by the fact that flights leaving on a Sunday or Monday are the most expensive.
Similarly, businesses will tend to book their tickets during the week, when they’re at work, rather than at the weekend. So those who book their tickets at the weekend, and particularly Sunday, are assumed not to be travelling for business, and pay less.
Do note, however, that these are just our theories – and may be wrong.
Buy your flight to Kilimanjaro early
Incidentally, the study also advises you to book your flights at least three weeks prior to departure if you want to book the cheapest fares.
We advise Kili climbers to extend that time limit, and to book flights at least 5-6 months prior to the start of the trip. (Please see our Kili Countdown page for details on how you should schedule your preparations for Kilimanjaro, or you can follow this link for more information on which airlines fly to Kilimanjaro.) With flights limited and the booking process quite complex, particularly if you’re arranging your trip for a large group or want to include a safari, it’s best to get your flights sorted sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, you may end up booking your itinerary within Tanzania, only to then discover that you can’t actually get to Tanzania in the first place!
Track flight prices if you have the time (and can be bothered).
Apparently, it wasn’t always the case that tickets bought over a weekend were cheaper than those booked during the week. According to an article in Business Insider, Tuesday was previously the cheapest day and some websites still claim that it is.
So if you have plenty of time before your trip – say more than six months – it might be worth tracking the price of plane tickets to Kilimanjaro day by day, to see what day is currently the cheapest day to buy tickets.