Top Five Secrets to Buying Cheap Plane Tickets

All the airlines that plan to join in on this "matching" will have completed the process by early Tuesday afternoon, so by 3 p.m., shoppers will have the most "good prices" to choose from.

Note: usually that original sale ends in just two or three days, and the matching fares of the other airlines will disappear by then as well, if not sooner. Remember, if all those sale prices disappear in a single day, that's it, they are gone. The airline is not going to put up a fresh supply of cheap seats to meet the demand. It just doesn't work that way.

4. Certain days (and times) are cheaper to fly than others.

Look, the airlines know they can easily sell out all the seats on planes that go to popular destinations during the most popular days of the week to travel, so they're not going to drop prices on those seats, are they? No, they are not.

But they would like to fill up the seats on the less popular days. Otherwise those seats are a total loss for them. Which is why you will find the best deals are available for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Now, when it comes to the days everyone wants to fly -- Fridays and Sundays -- it figures that those are almost always the most expensive days to fly. Adjust your vacation schedule accordingly.

Best Days to Fly

The best time of day to fly? Well, since no one wants to get up at the crack of dawn -- you guessed it -- that's when to fly. And generally, the dinner hour is cheaper too. And always, the overnight flights.

5. Today's airfare shoppers need help to find the best deals.

This is one of the weird things about the airfare pricing system: sometimes, even if you follow all the rules, and clear all those hurdles, the airlines still might not give you the best price. Their thinking will run something like: "Maybe if we give this seat just another day or two out there in the marketplace, someone who wants it even more than you do will be willing to pay our current price. Let's see if that happens."

So, you could sit there chained to your computer, checking the prices minute by minute, waiting for a price drop -- or you could sign up for an airfare alert. But be sure these are "real time" airfare alerts that let you know the instant prices change. The sooner you know about a deal, the better chance you have of actually snagging it.

Forget Aesop; his tortoise wouldn't have a prayer of snagging a deal in today's complicated game of airfare pricing. It's you hares out there who will score -- if you keep these tips in mind.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

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