If you think you’ve got to wait until a few months before your trip to book your flight, read carefully.
Most airlines put flights on sale flights as far as 11 months in advance. And yes, you can even find cheap fares that far out. It pays to plan ahead, after all.
Read on to learn when airlines publish their flights, and how you can use it to your advantage.
How Far Out Can I Book Flights?
You don’t have to wait until a month before your trip to book a flight — or even a cheap one, at that. Most major airlines publish their flights 11 months (or 330 days) in advance.
When you’re searching using Google Flights, you’ll notice that you can search for flights up to 11 months out from the current date.
Thrifty Tip: Have an event you need to travel for with set dates? Set a Google Flights Price Alert up to 11 months in advance, and get alerted when the price changes.
On most airlines, that is.
Major U.S. airlines including Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, and United publish flights 11 months days out. The same is true for most major international airlines, too – expect to be able to book flights roughly 11 months out, give or take a few days.
But other airlines like JetBlue and many budget carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country, and Southwest publish their flight schedules on a rolling basis. That means they may only publish flights six to ten months in advance – or less. But they’ll continually push out that window to make more future flights bookable.
|Alaska||330 days in advance|
|American||331 days in advance|
|Delta||331 days in advance|
|Hawaiian||330 days in advance|
|JetBlue||Currently through Feb. 10, 2021|
|Southwest||Currently through Jan. 4, 2021|
|Sun Country||Varies by route|
|United||334 days in advance|
The flight release schedule varies for these low-cost carriers. The best way to see if they’ve published flights for your future trip of interest? Browse the calendar on Google Flights or on the airline’s website to see if they’ve populated yet. If they haven’t, you’ll get a message like this:
We know it may seem like there’s no method to this madness, but there’s a reason behind the budget airlines’ approach. This allows them to not only drum up excitement when new dates are released, but also reduce the number of flights they change or cancel based on schedule changes.
But Can You Find Flight Deals 11 Months Out?
Yes! The myth that flight deals can only be found for last-minute trips is false. We find flight deals up to 11 months in advance, and instantly alert our Thrifty Traveler Premium members. This comes in handy if you’re already looking towards a winter getaway, spring break 2021, or even starting to think about cheap trips next summer!
We’re already finding flight deals that are available through May 2021. Yes, you can plan ahead and do it on the cheap.
Recent Thrifty Traveler Premium deal to the USVI available through May 2021.
U.S. Virgin Islands or Tahiti in spring 2021, anyone?
Recent Thrifty Traveler Premium deal to Tahiti available through May 2021.
A Word of Caution
In normal times, the ability to book flights up to 11 months (or more) in advance is a blessing. Book a cheap flight far in advance.
But these are not normal times. Airlines are drastically cutting their schedules due to coronavirus, flying a fraction as much as they did this time last year.
The problem is that the flights that airlines are selling often don’t reflect this new reality. Many carriers are still selling future flights they know will not operate.
For example, United is selling seats on 15 flights a day from Newark (EWR) to San Francisco (SFO), with flights departing almost every hour from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. All of these frequencies are on sale from September through May 2021.
But odds are that less than half of these flights will actually operate. Many airlines simply aren’t adjusting their schedules to reflect reality until just a month or so beforehand.
Read more: How Airlines are Generating Revenue on Flights that Will Never Take Off, from Skift
If you snag a deal far in advance, keep in mind that the flight you book may not actually be the flight you take.
That makes it more important than ever to make sure you’re booking a flight that can be easily changed or canceled. That’s fairly easy right now, as most major U.S. airlines are offering free change or cancellation on any flight booked by July 31.
And remember that if your airline cancels or significantly changes your flights, they owe you a refund.
Don’t wait until the last minute to book your flights. For many airlines, you can see – and track – flight prices up to 11 months out.
And yes, this means that we see flight prices drop as far as 11 months out, too. Ditch the old myth that you can only get a cheap flight if you book last-minute. You can start planning your cheap flight for summer 2021 now!