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JLMoran

The "90-day flight pricing rule" is validated again

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So thanks to the heads-up from @Sabrinaklai, I've been tracking the flight prices on United and JetBlue for the last few weeks. It's been interesting, not leastwise because yesterday was the 90-day mark before my cruise, and today United's fares dropped like a rock to just barely more than the best price I'd seen when I'd started.

  • Flight itinerary -- EWR to FLL on Wednesday, March 29; returning April 9
  • JetBlue "Blue Plus" fare selected for all price checks, since it includes one checked bag for $2 less than checking it at the terminal
  • United regular Economy fare for all price checks, since I need the freedom to choose our seats at booking and be sure the family is grouped together as much as possible

JetBlue was holding absolutely steady at $494.40 per person ($1,977.60 total; taxes included) for the entire time I had been checking, going back to mid-December. But on Friday, they suddenly jumped up $40 per person for the departure flight ($2,138.40 total), and for no visible reason (apart from maybe that it's a holiday weekend right now); almost all regular seats still available, nothing else to account for it.

Meanwhile, United had started at $408.40 per person ($1,633.60 total; again taxes included). It very quickly jumped by a lot, to just shy of $600 per person at one point. It started coming back down a bit going into this weekend, and then this morning it dropped to $423.60 per person ($1,694.40 total), just a little more than the lowest I'd seen when I'd started tracking.

For those who want to stop reading here, the key takeaway is that this "90-day flight pricing rule" that Sabrina mentioned really does seem to be a real thing. So a big thanks to her for letting us all know about it, and to watch the flight prices like a hawk both decently ahead of this window, and also going into it.

 

 

 

 

 

For those who care what happened next with me, go ahead and continue reading. For everyone else...

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I've gone ahead purchased my tickets on United, contrary to my original plan to fly JetBlue.

The main driver was the opposite swings in the two prices. The gap went from just under $300 more for JetBlue to just under $500 more. Between that, and the fact that United allowed me to upgrade just my own seat to Economy Plus (for the extra leg room I need) for what I considered a reasonable $150 roundtrip, it was really a no-brainer. Even after tacking on trip insurance for $110, the final price was $1,952.96 -- less than JetBlue at their lowest price I could find, and $340 less using JetBlue's current rate and adding their $160 trip insurance option. If I had upgraded my own seat on JetBlue like I did on United, the difference would bump up to $454.

Now, what's missing here is the checked luggage costs. With United I'll still have to pay $25 per bag when I check in each way, so there's another $200 out of pocket, putting me within $150 of the current JetBlue fare after their trip insurance is tacked on, but I'm still coming out ahead.

All that said, I'm going to take advantage of United's 24-hour no questions asked cancellation policy and re-check the fare tomorrow morning to see if it's gone down again (following a tip I'd read about many lower rates coming out on a Monday night going into Tuesday), and also to see if JetBlue comes back down after we're outside the holiday weekend. But given the daily fluctuations in the United prices, I figured I'd better lock this in while it seems to have come back down. If JetBlue drops and United stays the same, I'll cancel the United flight and switch over to JetBlue.

And if I do stay with United, I'll just have to hope they don't come on board and demand I give up my seat because of overbooking. :33_unamused:

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16 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

 today United's fares dropped like a rock to just barely more than the best price I'd seen when I'd started.

Whoo hoo! Great news to start the new year!  Happy it all worked out.  

Your post just motivated to check for my parents who are flying to Miami that same weekend to sail the Seaside.  Prices from DTW-MIA and FLL have been holding steady about $850pp there and over $1000pp back.  Which is beyond crazy!  I just checked now as yesterday was their 90 day mark too and my goodness...prices dropped like a rock too.  This is Delta by the way.  Now it is $600 something there and $700 something back.  Still beyond crazy but huge difference.  I won't share this with my Dad as he has already booked...😬  He got antsy this time because they are travelling with a large group and they pulled the trigger a few weeks before.  He's the one that told me about this trend in the first place lol

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when is the best time to book flights from JFK to San Juan? and a rough idea of cost. right now only united showing for Nov 2018 and tickets are about $1000 pp

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3 hours ago, Ray said:

when is the best time to book flights from JFK to San Juan? and a rough idea of cost. right now only united showing for Nov 2018 and tickets are about $1000 pp

I think flights don't start showing for most airlines until about 6 months before your sailing date, maybe as far out as 9 months. That's based on my experience looking for flights to Fort Lauderdale. So I'd check again in another month or two, and if you're still not seeing much offered, check again in May. Make a note of whatever prices you see and then start comparing them weekly or even daily

As for the best time, based on some comments in an earlier thread and my own analysis above, it seems like right around 90 days before your flight date is when US airlines drop the prices on their domestic flights. It may not be the absolute lowest rate at that point; you may want to leverage an app like Hopper to track flights and alert you when it's the optimal time to buy.

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5 hours ago, Ray said:

when is the best time to book flights from JFK to San Juan? and a rough idea of cost. right now only united showing for Nov 2018 and tickets are about $1000 pp

Delta (which we usually fly) shows prices about 10-11 months out.  Other airlines are generally around 6 months out like @JLMoran said above.  My strategy is the same, I will check it as soon as it comes out (assuming I have a cruise booked out that far at that point) or as soon as I know I need a flight (for example my Anthem cruise in March we did not decide until October 2017 so I missed the 11 month out mark already).  I make note of the price and flight times by taking screen shots of it and noting the date I checked the price.  Nothing fancy like Joe who probably has some super spreadsheet.  Anyway, then I start checking daily.  I use my app so it's not really hard work.  Takes less than a minute to check.  If you don't mind taking the risk, the 90 day mark is usually when it drops.  But that drop is not necessarily (as I have found in some past cases) the lowest price ever.  Sometimes it could be just a bit up from the lowest price.  The trend I have found is that the price is low at the beginning, then goes up and down a lot in the middle, then drops at the 90 day to something slightly higher or lower than the beginning and then climbs again.  I have done both, grabbed a flight as soon as it is released and at the 90 day mark.  The last few times I have waited till about 90 days and have been happy with the results.

The disadvantages of booking further out is also that the airlines might change the schedules on you as time goes on.  Then you are left scrambling to either pick a new time (assuming you can without penalty) or to deal with the new (maybe not as ideal) times.  For our Anthem cruise I had originally booked with United in November but within a month they changed the schedule twice on us.  The last change was for a departure out of EWR at 8:30am which I knew I would not make even with express self departure.  But since the schedule change exceeded two hours from what I originally booked I was able to cancel completely without penalty.  I am now booked back with Delta (thinking more about @twangster's tip about staying loyal to one airline) and I grabbed that fare at the 90 day mark which there was a considerable drop.  

I have not flown to San Juan in a long time so I'm no help there as to a rough idea of cost.  But I can say that tracking does pay off.  I lately, I have really loved the Hopper app that @tiny260 recommended.  I like how it watches your fare and predicts if you should wait or buy.  I've been using that as well to track the fares for my flight in July.  We'll see what happens come April.  The research continues 🙂

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Guest toodle68

I am a huge planner and researcher and check prices almost daily...

We have a cruise out of San Juan in March. It was tricky to know what to do with the flight because options are limited from our local airport. At $600 each, it is the most expensive flight I have paid for outside of international. At 90 days out, it is still the same price range when you factor in when we want to arrive and depart.  Then, if you decide to fly down the day before on a cheaper late flight, you have the cost of the hotel, food, extra transport etc. and I dislike arriving late in the day.

I am also someone that does not like to leave arrangements like flights until the last minute.. especially when you have already paid the full price of the cruise.  Sometimes, I find it better to pay a little extra to remove the worry and stress.. 

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9 hours ago, Ray said:

when is the best time to book flights from JFK to San Juan? and a rough idea of cost. right now only united showing for Nov 2018 and tickets are about $1000 pp

I know things change but I bought my ticket fall of '15 for a Feb '16 cruise and paid about $330 round trip from JFK- San Juan - if this gives you a rough idea.

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It's funny how we prioritize things.  With a cruise, I am very fussy about my stateroom - where it is and what kind of room I am booking.  Price is secondary...and it's the same with flights.  I would rather pay a little more but book early and be sure that I am getting the itinerary and seats that I want.  Now, obviously, if price is unreasonably high - like it was to San Juan last year for Christmas - then price becomes a discriminator but all things being pretty much the same, I will choose to make airline reservations earlier rather than later.

I think the OCD in me also shows.  I cannot STAND to have a loose end and a confirmed cruise without a confirmed way to get there is a VERY loose end !  I need to know that I have everything locked in.

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE a good deal and I'm very happy when I get one but I need to have my sh*t stacked and my ducks lined up and all of that...

:2_grimacing:

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29 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

It's funny how we prioritize things.  With a cruise, I am very fussy about my stateroom - where it is and what kind of room I am booking.  Price is secondary...and it's the same with flights.  I would rather pay a little more but book early and be sure that I am getting the itinerary and seats that I want.  Now, obviously, if price is unreasonably high - like it was to San Juan last year for Christmas - then price becomes a discriminator but all things being pretty much the same, I will choose to make airline reservations earlier rather than later.

I think the OCD in me also shows.  I cannot STAND to have a loose end and a confirmed cruise without a confirmed way to get there is a VERY loose end !  I need to know that I have everything locked in.

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE a good deal and I'm very happy when I get one but I need to have my sh*t stacked and my ducks lined up and all of that...

:2_grimacing:

This makes me think of something I actually forgot to mention earlier.  I am super OCD as well, and very similar in that I am super fussy about type of room and location.  I am also fussy about where my seats are on the plane.  Which brings me to what I forgot to mention earlier.  The one thing that causes me to pull the trigger earlier rather than later is if I am travelling with my kids.  I am willing to risk it and wait till 90 days if it's my husband and I (been married for over 15 years so not sitting together is not the end of the world) but if I know I am travelling with the kids then I watch seat availability as well as prices.  If the seats start going then I will buy before 90 days.  

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2 hours ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

I think the OCD in me also shows.  I cannot STAND to have a loose end and a confirmed cruise without a confirmed way to get there is a VERY loose end !  I need to know that I have everything locked in.

This is me, it has to do with OCD and then it is also book it and forget it, once I have everything booked for a cruise I can set it aside and then forget it, I have preset reminders in my brain I think, IE., 90-75 days out I book shows and dinner times on board, final payment date etc., for airfare I typically fly first/business class, so less seats to choose from so I normally book early to make sure I get to sit where I want.

For the person above asking about San Juan, right now I'm looking at first/business class from Tulsa, OK to San Juan for $1000pp for October 2018 cruise, I hope the $1000pp from JFK was a mistake and you got better pricing than that, I will probably buy around the 140 day out unless pricing looks like it is going lower. 

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Wow, talk about timing it just right! I've continued following the prices since I purchased on Monday. JetBlue hasn't gone moved in either direction at all since last Friday's small bump, even when I got a "BIG SALE!!!! 48 HOURS ONLY!!!!" email from them yesterday. United stayed about the same for two days, and today the price shot up $65 per person for the flight down, and $110 per person for the return flight.

So I guess the moral of the story is truly -- Buy the day the fares are made available, as long as they fit your travel timeline. And if you can't do that, then track them religiously, keeping an eye out for that "90 days out" dip.

Going to continue tracking for another few weeks, as Hopper was telling me to wait because fares were expected to drop a lot around February. If I find that it was way off for the flights I was specifically looking at, I'll delete that app from my phone and make sure to do it this manual way from now on.

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1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

 

So I guess the moral of the story is truly -- Buy the day the fares are made available, as long as they fit your travel timeline. And if you can't do that, then track them religiously, keeping an eye out for that "90 days out" dip.

 

Exactly.  And to add to that, if you track regularly, it will be hard to know when you do spot a "dip".

And I am still tracking the fares for my flight to EWR for Anthem since I bought them, it has done nothing but rise again since the "90 day dip".  But I'm still tracking for research purposes because I want to see what happens around 60 day and 30 days out.

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More follow-up on this, at 77 days out from sail away: United has gone up by about $420 on base rate from what I paid, and that's using the departure times with the lowest available rate; the rate to upgrade to Economy Plus also appears to be increasing.

JetBlue has gone way up since I bought my tickets. Unless they have a price drop at the 60-day mark, it would seem that at least with this airline (and Southwest, based on some earlier comments here) it's best to just buy on them the moment the fares are announced. Seems they follow the cruise line model -- lowest price you'll find on announcement day, and just going steadily up from there.

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1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

More follow-up on this, at 77 days out from sail away: United has gone up by about $420 on base rate from what I paid, and that's using the departure times with the lowest available rate; the rate to upgrade to Economy Plus also appears to be increasing.

JetBlue has gone way up since I bought my tickets. Unless they have a price drop at the 60-day mark, it would seem that at least with this airline (and Southwest, based on some earlier comments here) it's best to just buy on them the moment the fares are announced. Seems they follow the cruise line model -- lowest price you'll find on announcement day, and just going steadily up from there.

Still tracking those fares for my Anthem cruise too, even though I have booked long ago.  They also continued to climb after the 90 day window and at the 60 day mark, they were about $50pp more than what I paid.  Will continue to monitor until 30 days to see what happens.

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OK, today marks 60 days until our flight down. So here's the latest pricing update:

JetBlue

  • currently $3,010.40, using the exact same departure times for both legs of the trip; that's over $1,100 more than the best price I found slightly before the 90-day mark!
  • Even if I use a time slot with a lower price that is still a reasonable (non-redeye) hour to fly, it's still $2,338.40, about $350 more than that earlier best price

United

  • The exact flight times I've booked with United are no longer available, so I have to go with the best / closest options
  • Using those times, I'm seeing a price of $2,642.40, almost $1,000 more than my original booking price 90 days out

It's possible that these prices will drop tomorrow or Tuesday morning. I'll see what it's like tomorrow; but if my originally scheduled knee surgery holds and I don't have to push it out for this second surgery that's become necessary, then I'll be in the hospital Tuesday morning and then out of it the rest of the day.

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43 minutes ago, Sabrinaklai said:

Sitting here at 38 days out from my flight to EWR in March and flight prices are $500 more (total for 4ppl) than what I paid at 90 days out.  Comparing the same schedule.  Flying Delta.

i've been watching flights from JFK to San Juan for nov, prices go up and down more often than a prostitutes underwear :8_laughing:

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We are looking to fly from DEN to RSW ( Fort Myers Airport) because flights into/out of Fort Lauderdale are outrageous. I can't believe the prices you are quoting for EWR to FLL! That's crazy.

Going to stay at a hotel in Fort Myers (free with IHG points) rent a one way car for $52 through Budget and make this happen.

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17 hours ago, DunkelBierJay said:

@JLMoran I’m curious about your trip insurance choice from your original post. Did you get RC’s or a travel agent’s insurance for the cruise itself? Did you compare it against a third party like Roam Right or Allianz?

@DunkelBierJay, the trip insurance for the cruise was RC's, automatically added by my TA after I said I wanted to have the insurance when we booked. I was kind of surprised, honestly; I would have thought as a travel agency they would have done research on other options and either purchased something from Allianz, or at the least asked me about what kind of needs or concerns I had around getting the insurance so that I had some choices presented. That said, I read the terms of the insurance offered by Royal and also saw the cost and it was comparable to what I was seeing on tripinsurance.com.

For the flight, I purchased the separate travel insurance option offered by United (and provided by Travel Guard Group) since I booked the flight directly with United and not through Royal's Air2Sea program. If I was flying in the day before or day of the trip, I might have done Air2Sea, but I'm actually flying in three days early to take advantage of the lower rate around that Easter weekend / spring break week price hike.

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14 hours ago, Steve L said:

We are looking to fly from DEN to RSW ( Fort Myers Airport) because flights into/out of Fort Lauderdale are outrageous. I can't believe the prices you are quoting for EWR to FLL! That's crazy.

Going to stay at a hotel in Fort Myers (free with IHG points) rent a one way car for $52 through Budget and make this happen.

I looked at RSW as an option from EWR, but there were no non-stop options and my older daughter has a large enough fear of flying that I didn't want to subject her to a multi-leg flight.

I agree the prices are bananas, but the weekend of March 30 is both Easter weekend and the start of Spring Break week for many schools and colleges, so the airlines are taking advantage of the massively higher demand to jack up the prices. I count myself lucky that we were able to book our flight for the price we got at the time. It's the curse of being tied to school schedules. :37_disappointed:

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