When is the cheapest time to travel? High and low seasons in air travel.
Airfares depend heavily on when the flight takes place. They vary contantly. However, the most dramatic changes arise from the surge of demand in some periods of the year. Airlines charge quite different airfares for the same journey, depending on whether the flight occurs in high or low season.
When you plan a trip, it is worth knowing when you should expect low or high prices and may be able to get cheap air tickets. Peak seasons may be worldwide, regional, or specific to your destination.
1. Worldwide peak seasons.
The air ticket market experiences two main peak seasons with expensive airfares worldwide: summer in the northern hemisphere and the end of the year.
Summer. With regards to air tickets, the summer peak season starts in the last days of June and goes on without any pause until the last weeks of August. This peak period results from the very strong demand related to holidays that predominantly take place at that time in the northern hemisphere.
The summer peak season is a long period of high prices. The prices go up with a variable strength and duration depending on the destination. However, the rise happens in nearly the whole world. Even if your destination is not concerned by the migration of holidaymakers, it can rarely escape completely from the bullish trends because the air transport industry works in full employment in the whole world during that period.
The end of the year. Another peak season in air transport begins just after mid-December and ends a few days before mid-January. End of year holidays in most parts of the world and migrations of expatriates who often enjoy this period to meet their family are the main causes behind this peak season.
The end of year peak season is shorter and more variable than summer season. At the end of year, prices vary quite a lot from one day to the next. The overall price rise is more moderate than in summer. However, the rise can be quite strong in many destinations.
The rest of the year, i.e. from mid-January to mid-June and from September to mid-December, is low season in the air transport market with still many exceptions consisting of regional and more specific peak seasons.
The chart below, which was originally published in a similar article in French, shows the price trends of some roundtrips throughout the year from their price level in mid-January. It clearly demonstrates the changes related to the high and low seasons in the air travel market.
Seasonal trends of some roundtrips: fare changes from mid-January level, by month.
Paris - New York
Paris - Ho Chi Minh City
Brussels - Berlin
London - Cape Town
The bullish trends in peak seasons are actually stronger than the chart shows. The chart refers indeed only to the flights of the national flag carrier in the country of departure.
However, manytravelers take advantage of direct or connecting flights from other airlines that may offer cheaper air tickets. In low seasons, significantly cheaper deals are often available.
In peak seasons, fares of these cheap flights tend to be similar to the most expensive ones, as shown by the following graph.
Cheapest roundtrip Paris - New york, by month (fare in euros)
2. Regional peak seasons.
Airfares rise in some parts of the world when demand for trips increases due to events or public holidays in these areas.
Such events include Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November) and in Canada (the second Monday of October), Lunar New Year in China and Vietnam, carnival, Easter, and other school holidays in many countries.
Then, airfares increase in response to stronger demand from those regions. The uptrend is limited to the areas that are concerned by the event. It does not influence airfares in the rest of the world. Furthermore, the price rises occur mainly at the beginning and the end of these holidays as well as on weekends.
3. Peak seasons that are specific to some destinations.
Last but not least, airfares to some destinations increase as a result of the tourist seasons in these destinations. These peak seasons are often related to holiday trends and local climate conditions.
For instance, prices of flights to countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile go up from December to March, whether you travel from Europe, North America or Asia. This is a typical regional uptrend.
Countries, such as Thailand and partly Australia, experience a similar trend at about the same time of the year (December to February).
Another example: Airfares to destinations in the Indian Ocean such as Mauritius and Reunion Island are usually more expensive during their local peak tourism season (mainly from September to December), than in other months of the year.
At the end of year, local tourist season and year-end holidays push airfares to new heights as many vacationers from the northern hemisphere are looking for sunny destinations in winter.
In short, in addition to peak seasons such as the northern hemisphere summer and the end of the year that pushes up air traffic and fares throughout the world, there are many peak periods that are specific to some regional events or to each tourist destination.