Do International Flights Get 'Cheaper' Closer to The Date?

Hey all - novice traveller. Is the best time to get an international flight ASAP e.g. 'flash sale' to fill up seats?

Thinking of travelling in December 2019 but it seems too late to get cheap tickets.


Edit: Thanks everyone, appreciate all the thoughts!


  • i thought it worked the opposite?

  • i've never travelled in Dec as its always more expensive

  • Genrally the closer to the date the more expensive tickets get with most airlines

    For example.. we looked at going to Japan in Sep earlier this year.

    March Prices
    Qantas $997 return
    JAL $850 return
    CP $788 return (loooong layover)

    We decided not to go..but then 10 days before our original dates we decided to go.
    Qantas $2100 return
    JAL $1775 Return
    CP : $1190 Return (3 hour stop over there, 2 hours back)… We took this option.

    Jetstar even wanted $1600 direct

    Book early.. plan well.. save money

  • Usually has to be something which means people can cancel without cost or shift their tickets to get cheaper prices. Even at the last minute you get people buying with company money high cost tickets.

  • Fares fluctuate constantly as the yield management algorithms try to match supply and demand on a daily, even hourly basis, so there is no fixed rule.

    You’ll usually get an OK price well in advance then as time gets closer it can go either way - firesale for low demand, arm-and-a-leg for high demand.

    If you can decide WHERE to go at the last minute then you can get amazing deals, but if you have to be somewhere specific in December, then I’d book sooner rather than later.

    • This is the correct answer.

      Note: December is a high-demand month for travel, so few places are likely to be cheaper at the last minute.

  • As the flight gets closer less seats are available. Low supply = higher cost.

  • +2 votes

    December is never cheap. 95% of the time, the later you book, the more you pay.
    On top of this, Australia is far everywhere so we pay a lot to fly.
    Where are you planning to go and what airlines?
    Frequent traveler here. My tip, don't save $100 and risk your life flying dodgy airlines.

  • In general, the earlier you book, the cheaper it is. There are always exceptions, like Jetstar sometimes offer specials (most likely to fill low demand flight seats) with short duration from flight departures. Also, seasons of destination have some impact on price. December is never cheap, due to school holidays and a number of public holidays during that time, so is in high demand/considered peak season everywhere and do not need to discount flights.

  • In my experience the 'cheap seats' sell out first, so the earlier you book the better. Hotels may have good specials to fill empty rooms, but Airlines have to factor in the cost of fuel, so if they make the seat too cheap it becomes uneconomical for them.

  • Been my experience that getting tickets earlier makes them cheaper and more choice on dates. The exact date, and time, you fly out/back can affect the price as well. You can use aggregate sites like skyscanner, iwanthatflight, etc to get an idea on prices, across several airlines, for your dates. All things considered booking direct with the airline is best; as shown by The Thomas Cook collapse even reputable third party travel groups can go under. Airlines often have price match policies, but I’ve never used them. Maybe someone else can help here.

    Flying is only part of the equation, you also need to look at the price, and availability, of accomodation. Early does tend to give more choice. Prices are, generally, also cheaper unless you do latch onto a last minute deal.

    Happy trails, dude.

  • Checkout prices on —> once you do a search, on the results page you can view price trends for days before/after your departure/return and decide to fly earlier/later to take advantage of cheaper fares —> this is under the button "Price Graph"

    It will also show an assessment of whether prices are cheap now or expensive now and whether Google thinks they will go up or down before you fly - this is usually a row just under the "best flights" section

  • Generally speaking no.

    Having worked in airlines the international modelling is usually that they work hard to a pre determined point, once it hits there everything is a bonus and the algorithms are then designed to maximise profit so very unlikely you'd get cheaper prices, especially within the last 30 days. In simpler terms when I was involved in the pricing aspect once the flight has hit the profitable point every seat effectively increases in price for profit margin.

    Depends season, demand, how long away. If you're comparing say 5 months vs. 3 months, yes in some destinations and if you're lucky you could get a cheaper price.

    Though you're almost always better off buying in advance.

  • Generally speaking, no. Despite what you might be accustomed to paying, the airline industry is very low margin (to the point where basically almost every airline has to be subsidised to some degree by governments). Most airlines are hardly profitable and in the long run, history has shown that airline stocks consistently underperform the market on average.

    Having worked in risk modelling (not for an airline, but similar idea), the main objective is to fill up seats as quickly as possible. This reduces the risk of 1) having to fly with empty seats, which is the worst case, or 2) needing to have sales to try and fill up the remaining seats. Therefore, in general, airlines will price tickets lower to try and fill some minimum quota, then they will increase the price gradually as the plane fills up and the demand for the remaining seats increases.

    There are some cases where there will be flash sales closer to the date but this is rare - I've only seen this on either 1) domestic routes with basically a flight every 15 mins (e.g. MEL-SYD), where you might find a next day flight for cheap. Or, the other case is international long-haul trips to destinations which are not very popular (but these routes tend to be cut too).

    TL;DR, there's a chance it could go up or down, but on average prices go up.

  • If you are planning to go during a bury period, and the current prices aren't terrible, better to book ahead. December prices will go up a lot, and if you are lucky they might come back down to whatever they are right now.

    I've done a couple of last minute trips, including late December, but every time has been on a whim, when I've had no plans to go anywhere but been surprised at how cheap flights were when I looked. But even that cheap December flight wasn't very cheap, just not highly marked up like I expected.

    The other thing to be careful of is that hotels will also get booked. Depending what kind of places you wanna stay, this can be more expensive than the flights, and easily more stressful if you are find yourself choosing from a rapidly shrinking list of bad options.