Air travel trends for 2016

Reporting air travel numbers for late 2015; predicting new trends for 2016

The year 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for travelers to save money as they take to the skies.

That’s the gist of an important report from Expedia in partnership with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), released today. The report, titled, “Preparing for Takeoff: Air travel outlook for 2016,” is the second annual look at global air travel data, and it makes a number of bold predictions for the year ahead.

Many of these predictions revolve around super-useful booking information for air travelers like you and me.

For instance, based on the extent to which the price of travel within Europe declined between October 2014 and October 2015, the report indicates intra-Europe routes will be among the best bargains in 2016. The report also indicates that the best time to purchase economy tickets in North America for travel within North America is approximately two months in advance.

Another bold statement pertains to the best day of the week to find the lowest prices; though the document says the weekend has become a likely time to achieve savings, it’s still a good idea for travelers to snatch up any good airfares they might find on other days.

All about the price

Our data indicates that travelers care more about price than anything else when they’re booking travel. With this in mind, fare changes in a previous year often are good indicators for the year to come.

Globally, then, with prices for exchange rates, Expedia’s analysis of ARC data found that economy air ticket prices declined roughly 8 percent between October 2014 and October 2015, and that the trend of decreasing prices should continue through the first few months of 2016.

Looking at specific destinations for travelers to save in 2016, intra-Europe routes have some of the lowest expected air ticket prices. That means 2016 would be a great year to travel to Europe and hope around by plane. In particular, routes between Sweden and Berlin, Brussels and Rome, Austria and Barcelona, and Ireland and London all are expected to be US$235 or lower for a while.

(Of course another big way to save money when booking travel is to book air at the same time that you book hotel and rental car in a package. This process can save travelers up to US$568 across different destinations even more in resort destinations such as Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.)

Viewfinder Tip: Wherever you’re traveling, buy your tickets at least two months in advance to get the best deals.

When to buy

My friends and family members always ask me when is the best time to buy airline tickets, and I never know exactly what to tell them beyond, “ahead of schedule.” As part of the analysis for this report, after parsing through terabytes of flight data from more than 10 billion passenger flights, Expedia and ARC determined an answer to the question of when to buy: Roughly 57 days in advance.

The research indicates that air ticket prices purchased around this point yield a 10 percent savings versus the average fare. It also indicates that optimal lead times for tickets from North America to international destinations are much longer—if you’re flying from North America to Asia-Pacific, you should buy about 160 days in advance for the lowest fares, and if you’re flying from North America to Europe, plan to buy about 176 days ahead of time.

For European travelers, data indicates the best time to buy an economy ticket for another destination within Europe is 140 days in advance.

Day of week

The day of the week you buy also is a factor in determining price on an airline ticket. In previous reports (such as this one), Expedia and ARC have suggested Tuesday is the best day to buy, by a small margin. Looking at 2015 data, Expedia and ARC found that, on average, weekends provide an opportunity to find great deals, too.

Of course there are mitigating factors. Most analyses show low air ticket prices on weekend days because that’s when many leisure travelers purchase tickets (and leisure tickets are much cheaper than business tickets). What’s more, airlines change their fares multiple times a day.

With all of this in mind, Expedia and ARC advise that travelers who find a fare that looks like a great deal to purchase it, regardless of the day of the week.

That last nugget of advice might seem like common sense. But you’d be surprised.

The bottom line: Go. Whenever you buy, wherever you’re headed, just go. The year 2016 is likely to be a great year to travel for less. Take advantage of this scenario while you can. (And download a PDF of the report here.)

Where are you planning to travel in 2016?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Sarah Waffle Gavin

As head of PR and communications at Expedia, Sarah Gavin holds responsibility for influential programs for the Expedia brand and is the force behind the creation of the Expedia Viewfinder blog. Sarah has a strong background in technology communications and came to Expedia after six years of working on the Microsoft business for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. Part foodie, part tech geek, part mom, part traveler, when she's not strolling through the shops of Manhattan or sitting poolside in Mexico, she hangs her hat in the burbs of Seattle, Washington at the intersection of travel, technology, and motherhood.

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