In past years, with oil at $100+/barrel, airfares for high season travel to places around the globe were akin to a prostate exam: it felt like someone was violating you, and under highly unflattering lighting.
But with the drop in oil prices over the past year (now hovering around a delightful $50/barrel), airfares have dropped significantly. And they should stay low through 2017, because airlines “hedge” (buy oil at current prices for future use).
The trick is when and how to book.
There have been lots of studies on the best “window” of time, i.e. 60 days out for domestic tickets. But this doesn’t apply to international travel, because each continent is different.
- Europe – 120 days out
- Central and South America – 70 days out
- Asia – 160 days out
- Middle East and Africa– 215 days out
So use those windows if you want to lock in what should generally be the best rates. But the real secret to finding even better international airfares is FLASH SALES.
The new normal in the airline industry is the flash sale, a one or two day (sometimes only a few hours) sale where specific destinations (usually from just a handful of U.S. cities) are put on sale. It’s a way for the airlines to pick up incremental business from travelers who might not normally book. Or it’s a fare war from an upstart like Norwegian Air, Wow Air, etc that is putting pressure on the legacy airlines (American, United, Delta).
These flash sales occur, most predominantly, for flying out of major cities (or an airline’s hub cities) like LA, New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Miami, Philadelphia, etc.
And these are crazy low fares. Here are some recent examples:
- LA to various European capitals – $450-500
- New York to Stockholm – $300
- Chicago to South Africa – $700
- LA to Bangkok – $425
- Miami to various European capitals – $400-500
- Various cities to Dubai – $600
- New York to Vietnam – $425
Caveat: some of these are for low season or “shoulder” season (that time in between low and high season) airfares; and only for off days of travel, i.e. Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Saturdays.
But certainly not all! We’re already seeing a number of incredible summer fare bargains.
If you’re busy and don’t want to monitor various Twitter feeds and travel blog sites, the single best way to keep abreast of these sales is a new website called www.AllTheFlightDeals.com. They crawl tons of deal sites. You can set your departure city so that it only shows you deals from your gateway, and you can get daily deal emails or just check the website.
Another great one is www.TheFlightDeal.com. We personally subscribe to both.
But be prepared to act fast. As mentioned, these sales often come and go in a day or two – sometimes even less if it’s a popular city pair, like say, NYC-Paris. So have your credit card warmed up.
And get ready to scream like a girly man when you book a $500 fare from New York to Asia.