Why now is the Best (and Worst) time to buy Airline Tickets

Air travel has slowed to a crawl. People are self-isolating, social distancing, and avoiding interactions. Yet, I just bought 6 round trip airline tickets. Am I in denial of the world health crisis that’s going on? Nope, I’m an opportunist, and before you throw your phone or laptop out the window, bear with me, and read what I have to say.

Why now is the worst time to buy tickets

Airlines are cancelling flights, routes, and capacities by 20, 50, or even 90%, so the chances that you’re going to buy a flight and actually FLY on the flight are low. 

We had a trip planned to Portland next week (purchased two months ago) and Alaska cancelled three flights and rebooked us four times. 

If you’re someone that hates changes and uncertainty, then right now is not the time for you.

There are also dozens, if not hundreds, perhaps thousands of sick people flying right now, many who don’t even know that they are sick. Not just Coronavirus, but it’s still cold and flu season, so even a regular cold could be out there looking to infect you.

Heck, for all we know, Ben and I could be Coronavirus carriers and simply be asymptomatic. It’s best to stay home, follow the advice of state and local government, and make sure you’re healthy and safe.

Why now is the best time to buy tickets


Airlines need money and planes are flying virtually empty. Your social media feed has probably shown pictures of planes with 7 or 8 people practicing social distancing… not because they want to, but because no one is on the plane.

What does that mean for you? It means that right now, flights are beyond cheap, they’re so cheap that you might think you owe more. You’ll throw ice cold water on your face, pinch yourself, and realize that the prices are the real deal.

But, it might get worse!

That’s correct! Which is why airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees for most, if not all tickets, purchased directly with the airlines. Don’t go to Orbitz, don’t go to Expedia, make sure (as almost always you should) to purchase directly with the airline.


Delta is waiving all change fees for all flights purchases between March 1 and April 15. 


American is waiving change fees if you purchase before April 15th.


I wouldn’t trust United to actually follow through. They’ve changed their plans about 5 times, so if you’re booking on United, just make sure you actually want to fly on them.


If you purchase between now and April 30th, you may cancel or change, and deposit the funds into your Alaska Wallet or get a credit for future travel.

When to Fly?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you grab a flight next week or even next month, but flights into early, mid, and late May are on clearance. The airlines are practically giving the flights away. We booked a weekend trip over Memorial Day to Phoenix for only $44 round trip. If things get bad, no problem, we will cancel the ticket and move on!

But, you can be rest assured that we’re booking now with the hopes that things get better.

How to find the deals?

Your best friend here is Google Flights. You can enter your city and then for the destination just type “United States.” Then, you’ll be able to see all the flights from your hometown to anywhere in the USA for a selected date!

Once you do that, you can apply filters by price, destination, etc. I like choosing one-way flights, so I can fly there on one airline and back on another if it makes sense.

On the next screen, you’ll see all the destinations. On Thursday August 13th, look at the cheap flight options!

Here’s Seattle. Chicago for $51. New York for $91. San Diego sun? $61.

And here’s flights out of Orlando. Look at all the cheap flights! Redmond, OR for $42, Chicago for $31, Raleigh for $39, even Denver for $36.

Live in New York? In August you can book flights non-stop across the country for only $91. For summer travel? Unreal! How about Bozeman for $62 and enjoy the national parks?

While everyone is focused on the immediate and the right now, if you plan ahead (think summer, fall, winter, or even 2021) you can snag some amazing deals. Can’t take the flight, don’t worry. Chances are you can change or cancel your flight to use later.


Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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1 Comment

  1. Are you forgetting something? People flying into some cities will have to stay indoors for 14 days. Also everything is closed until further notice.

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