Volatile Ticket Prices

Home Page > Fun Stuff > 2004 > Ticket Prices

The Volatile Nature of Airline Ticket Prices

Have you ever looked up a ticket price online, then tried again the next day, only to find out that the price went way up?  It turns out that airline ticket prices can change quite a bit.  According to a paper entitled To buy or not to buy: Mining airline fare data to minimize ticket purchase price, by Oren Etzioni, Craig A. Knoblock, Rattapoom Tuchinda, and Alexander Yates (In Proceedings of the Ninth ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, 2003), "the price of tickets on a particular flight can change as often as seven times in a single day."  They were looking at tickets in the last three weeks before a flight.  Here's an example of how the price can fluctuate (Figure 1 in their paper):


This was for a round-trip LAX to Boston on United Airlines.

Now, compare that to a stock chart for the company.  In this case, it's a recent chart for the stock price for the last 3 months:

I always tell people that airline ticket prices change as much as the stock market.  These two charts show what I mean.  As for my advice on buying tickets: try to buy them early.  Otherwise, keep a watch on the price for three or four days in a row, to get a feel for what the lowest price is, then wait until it's near that low price and buy it.  Or use hotwire.com, if you don't care what time of day you fly.

[For another discussion on the prices of things, see Glimpses of the Past for computer prices, or Prices of Things in August 2003]

From: (your name or email address, or anonymous)

Your message to Matthew:

Created and maintained by Matthew Weathers. Last updated Apr 20, 2006.