Early birds get the worm, and early flights depart on time (usually), according to a new report from the Airlines Reporting Corporation and Expedia. The report also shows that flights booked for later in the day, specifically scheduled after 3 p.m., carry a much higher risk of being delayed or cancelled. Compared with earlier flights, post-3 p.m. trips are an average of 50% more likely to get cut, the ARC report says.
The finding is based on data collected between January and August 2022 by Official Aviation Guide, a travel analytics company. It comes along with many other travel tips included in the ARC/Expedia report. For instance, traveling off-peak can be another way to boost your booking reliability.
Flight delays tended to be shorter, by about 40 minutes on average, in March and April than in the summertime. Fall delays were also shorter than those at summer’s travel peak, according to the OAG data.
Yet even if you can’t avoid booking an evening flight in the middle of July, the good news is that the risk of delays is decreasing from pandemic highs, in general. The peak chaos of covid-era flying seems to be waning. Between early 2022 and August, flight cancellations fell from more than 7% of all flights to around 3% by August.
Beyond avoiding the headache of delays and cancellations though, being strategic about when you book your flight can also save you money. Domestic flights that leave on Wednesdays are about 15% less expensive than those that depart at the beginning of the week. And buying your tickets on a Sunday as opposed to a Friday can save additional dollars.
Finally, earlier is better in another respect, because booking travel far in advance does mean even cheaper tickets (i.e. waiting for the price to go down isn’t usually a great bet). At least a month of buffer-time between purchase and departure saves an average of 10% on domestic flights. While six months in advance, or more, is the sweet spot for international travel, according to the report.
As the winter holidays speed ever closer, maybe these tips can help minimize the inevitable stress of travel and family togetherness. Or, alternately, you could skip the stress altogether by staying home. Just tell your family you’re doing it for the climate.