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How Far in Advance Can I Book a Flight?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

You’re planning a trip next year, but the schedule doesn’t yet exist. You have a world of options for cruise itineraries or hotel rooms, but you’re not exactly sure how you’re going to get there in the first place. Sound familiar?

The sun over clouds and the wing of an airplane

While the idea of a last-minute departure seems romantic, we all love spontaneity, you can’t plan your vacation days around a tentative holiday – especially at the choicest times of year such as Christmas or March Break.

The advance schedule issue affects cruisers in particular as ships and sailings can book up sometimes years in advance!

I don’t want to read the whole article, just give me the gist of it

If you’re of particularly short attention, the answer is typically 330 days in advance.

The average flight schedule will be available for bookings around 11 months in advance.

However, this isn’t always true nor does it help to allay stress surrounding booking problems. A better understanding will help the busiest of readers know when to start looking for a flight to match their dream trip!

Does seating class matter? First Class, Premium or Economy

Seating class won’t really factor into the equation, a flight (and all the seats on board) is either scheduled or it is not. Private charter is obviously vastly different, but so much so that I won’t be covering it in this article. Make sure you subscribe now so you won’t miss out when we do cover private jet charters in more detail!

British Airways flight is loaded with cargo

Does the destination matter?

Geographic location has only some effect on the availability of flight schedules. It's a little more to do with the local industry standards and less to do with the popularity of a given route or destination. The rate at which seats are purchased and the inventory is reduced to zero will be affected, yes, but the release date will remain the same.

Airlines operating out of North America (as mentioned above) will release their flight schedules about 330 or 331 days in advance. I like to round it to 11 months, who likes counting down from 365 on their fingers anyway?

Some popular deviations from this standard are seen in Europe, including British Airways, for example, which may release its flight schedules up to 360 days in advance. Although I’ve heard of instances in which availability was as long as 14 months in advance, I’ve not seen it with enough frequency to include details in this article.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, lower value or budget airlines tend to be more likely to release their schedules later toward the dates of departure. 6-8 Months for JetBlue or 254 days for Southwest, for example.

My cruise is well over a year away, how will I budget for my flights?

This is a bit difficult and involves a fair bit of guesswork as routes may change and other unpredictable circumstances can lead to wholly new scheduling and availability.

I tend to suggest a good (albeit rough) estimate might be to look up the flights available in the current year and to factor an additional 10% per year in advance.

busy flight full of people

So, for a flight to Greece in summer of 2020, you’d investigate the price of those flights in 2019 and add about 10%. While not entirely accurate, you can at least work toward budgeting for your trip.

Are there other considerations for planning or budgeting for my flights?

I'm unsure how it came to be, but many people are convinced that making the booking itself on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday will somehow result in a lower fare. That somehow it has become a sort of urban legend in flight bookings that there is a better day of the week to book a trip – I’ve yet to see any sort of concrete evidence, please feel free to comment on this article or otherwise share if you’ve got a genuine record of consistent price differentials and not an anecdotal booking from 2015!

On the other hand, I can suggest that most routes featuring a mid-week flight will be more favorably priced. Just remember that when you’re looking at the rough dates for a future flight itinerary, the days of the week will have shifted and your 8th of August will be a Thursday in 2019 but a Saturday in 2020.

In summary

Again, I’d side with the peace of mind group or the get on with your life party.

There’s real value in just getting on with your life and planning around your comfort and happiness rather than getting out the sextant and calculating the rise of the moon vs day of the week and rate of seat availability distribution for 400+ days in the future.

You have a travel goal and you will achieve it. But if you don't commit to your vision and book, you risk someone booking their dream and living it out instead of you. That leaves you with costlier flights and lost vacation time or reduced comfort when you have to connect.

Although you could always just charter a private jet!


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