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Buying your flight to Kilimanjaro: when is the best time to book your tickets?

Kilimanjaro Airport Arrivals Hall taken from the tarmac

When should you book your flights for Kilimanjaro?

I am prompted to write this following an email from one of our climbers, Perry. He gave me a piece of advice that I hadn’t heard before. For he told me that he was going to wait a few days before booking his flight to Kilimanjaro. When I asked him why, his response surprised me. He said that it is cheaper to buy flight tickets to Kilimanjaro on a weekend. Sunday nights, in particular, are supposed to be a good time for buying plane tickets.

To be honest, 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. And 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.

I was gobsmacked by this. I have been travelling for my job for almost thirty years and I’ve never heard of this phenomenon.

But was it just luck? Well, a quick internet search would suggest that it is in fact true. Flights booked at the weekend are cheaper than those booked during the week. And nor is it just flights to Kilimanjaro that work this way. Apparently, tickets to virtually every destination are also cheaper if booked at the weekend. 

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 fly 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 less time you take from your holiday allowance 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. This is particularly true 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 is it 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.  The fact that flights leaving on a Sunday or Monday are the most expensive certainly backs up this theory.

Similarly, businesses tend to book their flights during the week, when they’re at work, rather than at the weekend. So, the airlines assume, those who book their tickets at the weekend are not travelling for business. As a consequence, the airlines charge them less.

Do note, however, that these are just our theories. And like all theories, they could 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 for 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 scheduling your preparations for Kilimanjaro,. Alternatively, follow this link for more information on which airlines fly to Kilimanjaro.) With flights limited and the booking process complex, it’s best to get your flights sorted sooner rather than later.

Otherwise, you may book your holiday itinerary, only to then discover that you can’t actually get to Tanzania in the first place!

Track flight prices if you have the time 

Apparently, it wasn’t always the case that tickets bought over a weekend were cheaper. According to an article in Business Insider, Tuesday was previously the cheapest day to buy a ticket. Indeed, some websites still claim that it is.

So if you have plenty of time before your trip, it might be worth tracking the price of plane tickets to Kilimanjaro. That way, you can see for yourself if the price fluctuates day-to-day.

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