The next time you get on a plane, think about how much money you spent on your ticket, then imagine how much the person next to you paid.
Prices can vary wildly. That’s because airline ticket prices are “uniquely volatile,” according to Scott Keyes, founder and CEO of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a Portland, Oregon-based newspaper that sends daily airfare deals to more. of 2 million customers. East. He says getting good prices has become an art in itself.
“The plane ticket is unlike anything we buy,” Keys told CNBC Make It. “It’s a unique price. It doesn’t behave like other things, and we face uncertainty as a result. ” [when buying]”
You can buy a round trip flight for $ 500, only to see those seats the next day for $ 250. Or, you stick to buying that $ 500 flight because you expect the price to drop, and eventually see it go up to $ 750.
“No one is prepared to book expensive flights,” Keys says. “We stop booking expensive flights. “
The reason, says Keys: Too often people avoid shopping against their better judgment, or let irrational thoughts get the best of them. Here, he breaks down some of the psychological and mental biases that haunt consumers when looking for airline tickets:
Don’t procrastinate or engage in wishful thinking
One of the worst things you can do when looking for airline tickets: wait until the last minute to buy your seats, hoping the prices go down. This, along with tactics like clearing your cookies or searching in a private browser tab, is what Keys calls “wishful thinking”.
“Waiting until the last minute, in the hope that there will be a sale, won’t do anything to make flights cheaper,” Keys says. “It has nothing to do with the reality that flights will almost certainly be more expensive at this point, and therefore you might end up paying more.”
He says that while you can realistically expect the fares to be cheaper when you give yourself plenty of time to find a flight, you don’t have to hang on to that expectation once your date leaves. is falling. necessary.
“The old days of cheap last-minute relief flights haven’t been around long enough,” he says. “[Waiting] A recipe for disaster. You want to make sure that your strategy is based on real best practices.
The search for plane tickets can be stressful, and the urge to postpone the process can be tempting. Keys recommends searching during what’s called the “Goldilocks Window,” which she says is the time period in which the best fares on flights are found. The trip is not too long past the date, nor too close, he says.
For domestic flights, Keys says the Goldilocks window is typically one to three months before your travel dates. For international flights, it is two to eight months in advance.
“Most airlines start selling their flights 12 months before travel,” Keyes explains. “But if you book your flights a year in advance, the prices are usually not good.”
Don’t worry about what you’ve paid in the past, or don’t buy out of fear
Many travelers base their purchasing decisions on the price they paid for their last trip. At the risk of sounding obvious, Keys says, you should focus on the best values instead.
For example, let’s say you made a round trip to Paris in 2011 for $ 1,000. Now you want to come back – and you are considering comparable flights that cost the exact same $ 1,100.
“You can say, ‘Well that’s a good price for what I paid last time,’ without realizing that cheap flights show up all the time,” Keys says, with time and time. patience. Right now, you should be able to find a round-trip flight to Paris for under $ 600 from anywhere in the United States.
Likewise, you might see a particular plane ticket hovering above the same price for several weeks – and let’s say it’s the lowest. This, Keys says, is a mistake: “Airline tickets can stay in one place for a long time and [then] Go out somewhere.
Often, Keys says, people are willing to buy an expensive flight if they are worried the price will go up even more. There’s a psychological reason for this: According to research by Nobel Laureate economist Richard Thaler, people receive twice as many negative emotions from loss as positive emotions from gain.
In terms of airfare, Keys says, that means travelers may miss out on better deals if they think they’re avoiding at least one price hike. “Let’s say you are considering a flight to Paris that costs $ 1,500. It’s a terrible price, but you can book this flight because you fear it will increase, ”he explains.
In other words: don’t rely on your last trip as a frame of reference. Find out if you are safe in the Goldilocks window and expect a better price.
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Don’t miss: This simple tip can help you find cheap plane tickets, says Scott’s Cheap Flights founder.