Experts break down the optimal days for air travel in terms of costs, crowds and likelihood of cancellations.
If you were scarred by your summer flying experiences, we don’t blame you. Fortunately, the situation is improving, but there are also ways to cut down on the likelihood that you’ll have a bad experience. A big one is being strategic about which day you fly.
We asked air travel experts to share which days they think are the best for passengers in terms of costs, crowds and cancellations. As it turns out, they had similar answers for all three.
The best days to fly in terms of cost
“Airfare prices can vary from one day to the next,” said Martin Jones, CEO and travel expert at Airport Parking Reservations. “However, airlines are relatively predictable when it comes to price fluctuations. As a standard rule, the cheapest days of the week to fly are those that are classed as ‘off-peak’ ― Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Put simply, the greater the demand for a certain flight or travel day, the more likely it is you’ll see higher prices. As such, it’s best to avoid flying on busy travel days.
“A lot of people take advantage of two consecutive weekends by leaving for vacation on a Friday and returning the following Saturday or Sunday,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “Many business travelers fly out late Sunday night or early Monday morning and return on Friday. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically the cheapest days because fewer people are flying. We regularly see savings of 10% or more for flights departing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays compared to other days.”
And regardless of the day of the week, pay attention to other types of peak travel times, like end-of-the-year holidays or school spring breaks. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, for example, is typically one of the busiest and most expensive travel days of the year.
“While Tuesdays and Wednesdays are on average the cheapest days to fly, you should still make sure that is true for your itinerary,” Dengler noted. “Factors such as the time of the year and your destination and departure cities may influence prices. I recommend using Google Flights calendar view before booking your flight to ensure the cheapest days.”
“We regularly see savings of 10% or more for flights departing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays compared to other days.”
And contrary to popular belief, he said, there’s no “best” day or time to actually book a flight. The day you fly has more bearing on cost than the day you buy your ticket.
“There are great deals available every single day of the week,” Dengler said. “So you should not limit yourself to only checking airfare prices on a certain day,”
The best days to fly in terms of crowds
“In addition to being cheaper, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are also the best days to fly because there are fewer people at the airport,” Dengler said. “That means shorter security lines, less traffic around the airport and the potential to get on a flight that is not completely full.”
He noted that taking less-than-full flights also decreases your odds of having to gate-check your carry-on bag and generally makes for a calmer experience.
“For those looking for a quieter flight, it is recommended that you travel on off-peak days, particularly Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” echoed Jones. “These days are typically less busy for travel; business travelers usually fly at the start and/or end of the week, whilst those traveling for leisure often wait until the weekend.”
The best days to fly in terms of cancellations
“Over the last few years, flight cancelations have become increasingly frustrating and seemingly unavoidable,” Jones said. “Although any flight is technically liable for cancellation, recent trends have shown that flight cancellations typically coincide with how populated an airport is. Therefore, it could be worth considering travel on off-peak days ― Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Dengler noted that 2022 data from the aviation intelligence company FlightAware shows the fewest cancellations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on average. The third-best record was on Mondays.
“Tuesday had considerably fewer cancellations per week (321) than Friday (826), which is the day with the most canceled flights,” Dengler explained.
He also emphasized that your choice of flight time can be important for avoiding cancellations and delays.
“Generally, flights early in the morning are much less likely to get canceled or experience a major delay than flights departing later in the day,” Dengler said. “If possible, book a nonstop flight very early in the morning. One or multiple connections dramatically increase your odds of experiencing a delay or cancellation.”
Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday isn’t always an option, but if you can swing it, these two weekdays might make the air travel experience feel much more worth your while.
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