preloadCouple checking detail before booking their flight

This article will cover when ASAP booking is an insight you want to heed, and when there are exceptions to the rules. There are always deviations to figuring out how far in advance you can book a flight, and there are of course some best practices to go about it. Airlines sell their tickets using algorithms and demand, thus prices spike and fall as a direct correlation. Let’s keep that simple, so you know how to navigate the tools available to you. And this will avoid the hours and hours of searching all over the web.

1. When do airlines make their flights available for sale?

The majority of the world’s airlines release tickets just under a year in advance for you to purchase. But booking that far in advance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re saving money, or even seeing the actual flights.

So the prices may vary and also the schedules. It’s good to remember that just because the flight is available to buy, it doesn’t mean you will get the best price as they release them – sometimes a little extra wait time can pay off. To monitor price drops on a certain route, set up a KAYAK Price Alert and get notified when flights get cheaper.

2. How far in advance can you book an airline ticket?

Most U.S.-based carriers allow booking cash tickets up to say 11 months in advance. When it comes to award travel, certain carriers will have different rules. Low-cost carriers do not have a hard and fast rule when it comes to advance booking time. Here is a list with the top 10 (alphabetically listed) and their usual timings:

AirlineAdvance booking time
Alaska Airlines330 days in advance
Allegiant AirSix to nine months in advance
American Airlines331 days in advance
Delta Air Lines331 days in advance
FrontierFive months in advance (subject to change)
Hawaiian Airlines330 days in advance
JetBlue331 days in advance
Southwest AirlinesVaries, but typically six to nine months in advance.
SpiritVaries, but typically seven months in advance (subject to change).
United Airlines330 days in advance

3. When to book award tickets in advance

When it comes to award travel, the rules are straightforward – book as soon as possible. Award travel usually opens around the same time as the booking times for cash, so you can take the plunge. Airlines simply don’t have as many award tickets for every flight – so booking early means you’re more likely to get the dates, seats, class of service, etc. that you’re after.

Want to learn more about scoring tickets in Business Class? Then, this guide to save on business class tickets will come in handy.

4. KAYAK tools to help you book flights in advance

Trust me, you are in good hands and I know that from experience. No matter if you log in from your personal computer or in the KAYAK Mobile App, you will find tools for planning your trip. Regardless of what you are looking for, KAYAK has you covered.

Looking for a good deal? Then use the Flight Search: check the dates you’re after to see what deals KAYAK will find for you.

Need to fit a certain budget? Check out KAYAK Explore to filter destinations based on how much you want to spend (and many other factors).


5. Does the ‘Best Time To Travel’ exist?

You can imagine as a travel writer, I do get asked if there is a “best time to travel” often, and people want to know if there is a secret hack to getting it for the best price. I usually just say it all depends. And just because the flights are available, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily book them – some things are worth waiting for a little.

Hot destinations and super peak season travel typically should prompt anyone to book earlier than usual. The schedules of these probably won’t change, and the closer you get to something like the Thanksgiving holiday, I can promise you prices will skyrocket.

Want to know when to get on a trip? The Best Time to Travel tool uses your origin, destination and length of trip to determine when you should travel and when to book for a great price.

Personally, I wish I could be more of a spontaneous flier. I’d like to book today and travel later today, and just go where the whims take me. But alas, the reality is I can hardly do that with the amount of travel I do. So, for me, I have found that three months ahead typically does the trick. I have picked up a few last-minute crazy deals where I am booking last minute as a story across the planet comes up – so I have been lucky that way. I have also booked way in advance and planned a whole trip. Even the travel writer couldn’t scramble to get this show back on the road.

How was this guide created?

It’s quite simple. Being on the road for more than 200 days a year for two decades and thus taking multiple flights every month, have made me pay extra attention to flights. There aren’t perfect rules to when to book, but lucky for us, the data sourcing and predicting tools available with KAYAK are there to help.

How far in advance to book a flight FAQ

A man seated inside an aircraft looks at the scenic sunset through the window.

Low-cost airlines (for reasons not perfectly clear) vary more in their dates when tickets become available. Currently, the majority of the low-cost airlines are letting customers book roughly half a year ahead of travel, but as they say on their websites, it is subject to change.

Most airlines release their flight schedules around 11 months in advance. With international travel, there are some rules worth following – summer months are very busy and you might not be able to get the exact flights you are after. A good rule of thumb is to start looking roughly 6 months before your specific travel dates, and not wait much later than 3 months before you’re planning to get into the skies. A good idea is to check their websites, keep track of their social media, and see what information they are offering up about any upcoming deals.

Disclaimer: Information is correct as of 21.07.2023 and may vary with time.

About the author

Daniel SchefflerDaniel Scheffler is a travel writer, podcaster, and producer. Born in Africa, bred in Europe and now living in America he has traveled to 140 countries (and all 50 U.S. states). Plus he has stayed at over 2500 hotels across the globe. His original shows Everywhere and Without Maps (available on Spotify) showcase his beliefs, travel is about humanity and sharing that beauty. And thus it reminds you that you shouldn’t believe everything you think.

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