It can be quite frustrating when trying to buy plane tickets to find low airfares only to see them vanish overnight. It seems like these prices shift on any given day of the week with no warning. Ticket prices can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars from day to day, and predicting the change can seem virtually impossible, leaving many consumers to simply buy whatever ticket they need at the time. There is a logic to these changes in flight prices, however, although so many factors go into determining the shifts that it can be difficult to predict when the lowest fares will be available.

This article will give you some insight as to why prices change so much when it comes to air travel. Knowing what causes these daily fluctuations in price can help you make the most informed, reasonable purchase when you go to book flights.

Last-Minute Tickets

Airlines look at two main types of consumers: early purchasers and last-minute purchasers. An early purchaser generally can wait some time to find the best deal on a flight, but often will simply buy a relatively affordable ticket, since predicting when the lowest price point is can be too difficult. Last-minute purchasers often pay full price for a ticket and do not have the flexibility of waiting for cheaper deals. As a result, airline ticket prices will tend to spike radically within a few days of a flight, since the airlines know some consumers have no other option.

Destination Popularity

Airlines are always trying to maximize their profit based on the forecast demand for a destination. As long as their predictions do not change, prices typically will not change until immediately before the travel date. Occasionally, however, a destination’s popularity will increase drastically for some reason; a write-up in a national magazine, a big event, or from some other cause. When this happens, airlines might predict increased demand and raise their prices accordingly.


Peak travel months for your destination should be considered when purchasing your flight tickets. You will be more likely to find lower fares for these peak months if you buy your tickets far in advance of the departure date. Similarly, higher prices can be found as you get closer and closer to the day of your flight.

Filled Capacity

The major factor in determining airfare prices is whether an airline believes it will be able to fill all of their seats. If there is a long lag in sales, resulting in a flight still being well below occupancy as the departure approaches, prices might undergo a major dip. Conversely, if there is a spike in sales for some reason, and the flight begins to fill up, prices will increase.

Note:‌ During the COVID-19 pandemic, travel rates inevitably dropped. Demand for flight tickets since the pandemic calmed down, however, has been increasing. People are less afraid to leave their homes and explore the world—in fact, they’re eager to. This is an example of supply and demand pricing that both business travelers and leisure travelers alike should pay attention to when booking flights.

Flight Closures

Economic realities, airline mergers and global events can sometimes cause aircraft to be removed from service. When complications like flight cancellations occur, overall capacity for a route is reduced, leaving fewer seats to be filled. Airlines will thus suspect that flights will be fuller and will increase ticket prices.

Historical Analysis

With so many variables, it is very difficult to predict when tickets for a particular flight will be at their lowest price, but analyzing historical data can yield some trends. A number of services, such as the online site Yapta, show historical price data for a specific flight date, displaying what the ticket prices were on each day leading up to the flight. This allows consumers to make more informed decisions as to when they should purchase their tickets.


Google flights is a helpful resource travelers can use when seeking out the best price for their next flight. This tool will help you compare different prices of flights depending on factors like date/day of the week, destination, airline and more.

With the many important factors that exist in the travel industry, there is not necessarily a perfect method to determine the best price for your next airline ticket. Cheap flights can be hard to come by, especially when flying with the popular airline companies like Delta or American Airlines. Budget airlines will be the best bet for those that need good flight deals that will not break the bank.