Some amazingly cheap flights to London have been popping up lately

LondonJust when it looked like any flight between the US and Europe was going to be at least $900 or more round-trip this summer, a few sensational deals have begun to appear. Part of the problem is that they often disappear almost as quickly, so we’ll discuss this phenomenon and how best to take advantage of these sales when they do suddenly show up.

London round-trips for under $500?

Yes, in a time when even $800 seems like a low fare from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe, it turns out that in the past two days quite a few round-trip flights between New York and London have gone for $481 including all taxes and fees. These are for flights during July and August, by the way, which makes the deals that much more astonishing.

Interestingly, our research indicates that fares for most other days in those two months have gone no lower than $700 RT, and in some cases close to $1,000 RT. This shows very clearly that one or more airline decided they had too many seats available during at least a few of its flights during July and August, and they launched a fare sale just on those selective seats.

Tuesday fare sales

One of the most interesting things we’ve learned this year about finding cheap flights is that a window tends to open between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday, but only on certain weeks. Most airlines evidently launch their most aggressive fare sales on Tuesdays, and in some cases other airlines match those low prices. In other cases there is very limited availability, but in almost all cases those seats are sold out by Thursday.

These same studies have found that on Saturdays and Sundays airfares tend to be at their highest. As a student of economics, this certainly means that people who shop for flights on weekends are considered more “inelastic” meaning that they’ll buy the tickets whether the price is a bit higher or not.

By the same token, people who are shopping for fares on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are obviously considered “elastic” meaning that if you offer them a good deal they’ll book, but if the price is high they won’t.

Your strategy for the cheapest flights

Obviously what you should do if you are shopping for fare deals is check the best prices on whatever day you have the idea for the trip, but then also check prices on Tuesday afternoon or evening. If the fares have come down since you first checked then it’s wise to buy the tickets right then.

It’s also worth considering that tickets are usually at their cheapest between 4 and 6 weeks before the flight. So if you are planning a trip for 8 to 12 weeks away you might just keep checking the prices until 6 Tuesdays before you want to leave. If you see a price drop around then you’ll know that’s the lowest you’ll ever find it.

This strategy does NOT work for holidays, however, so if you want to fly on Memorial Day or Labor Day or Thanksgiving and so forth, just buy your tickets as early as possible.

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