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When to book your Ryanair flight

I appreciate “never” may be the initial response from a few of you, but lest we forget, this is the new, customer-friendly, Ryanair.

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Airline’s “dynamic pricing” can be confusing at the best of times, and there are few things more galling than paying for an airline ticket way in advance, only to see it lessen in price nearer to departure. Ryanair operates a particularly sensitive method of dynamic pricing, and while the generally accepted rule for cheap flights is to book as far in advance as you can, a UK-based academic has argued differently.

As reported in the British press, Claudio Piga, economics professor at Keele University, claims that statistically the cheapest time to book with Ryanair is 10 days before your flight.

The reason? Ryanair’s “U-shaped temporal profile”, apparently. What this means is that bookings 10 days before supposedly avoid the premiums for regular passengers who book well in advance, and the often sky-high prices for last minute bookings.

Not altogether surprisingly (they are very protective of the specifics of their pricing structure), Ryanair have vehemently denied the findings, stating that the research was ‘hopelessly inaccurate’ and that ‘Ryanair’s lowest fares are sold on a first come, first served basis and rise only as quickly as the low fare class are sold in the six months prior to departure’.

What do we think?

First of all, we have conducted no scientific research on this whatsoever, so our opinion is based on nothing more than years of (the often miserable process of) booking with Ryanair. However our instinct is very much to side with Ryanair. While prices undoubtedly do sometimes lessen nearer departure (a fact which heavily undermines the Ryanair claim above), our consistent experience has been that the earlier you book, the cheaper your flight will be.

In particular, and this is crucial for the Ryanair bargain hunter, the promo fares you sometimes get with Ryanair (£/€9.99 all-in etc) without exception need to be booked as early as possible.


2 Comments

  1. It’d be interesting for SkyScanner or one of the other big portals to record data for 9-12 months to see what the actual data suggests. I can’t see why 10 days would be the optimal time, maybe the researcher is not counting discounted fares?

    • maltapoints says:

      As my post (I hope) makes clear, I’m also far from convinced by this “10 day” theory.

      You may well be right about a failure to properly account for discounted fares – the reports suggest that his theory works on the basis that starting fares are always substantial, which anyone who’s booked a “99p all-in” fare knows is simply not the case.

      I agree that it would be very interesting to see a fully stat-backed summary of Ryanair price fluctuations, but just writing that makes me realise I need to get out more.

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