Planning next year’s summer getaway already? You may want to hold off a while on buying your flights. Booking too far in advance could cost you, and not just monetarily. In a recent American Airlines’ Tell Me Why podcast, Vice President Brian Znotins provided insight into how airline scheduling and planning occur. The news wasn’t great for travelers who would like to book their flights as far as possible.
While it may seem like a good idea to lock in a fare and a date so you can plan the rest of your trip, the risks may not be worth it. Below, Travel Off Path explores how and why airlines make their schedules the way they do and what it means for travelers.
How Airlines Schedule Flights, According To American Airlines VP
According to Znotins, American Airlines currently releases its set-in-stone schedule 100 days in advance. Before Covid-19 changed the world, the carrier released its schedule 90 days in advance. In most instances, travelers should feel safe taking advantage of this 100-day window. Once the official schedule is released, it is unlikely that the carrier will make any significant changes to the flights on offer. Any major changes typically occur before that 100-day window is locked in.
What About Beyond 100 Days?
This is where things start to take on more risk for travelers. According to Znotins, American Airlines will sell flights up to 330 days in advance. This is significantly farther out than their set-in-stone schedule and is known as a placeholder schedule. Before the pandemic, the placeholder schedule was a relatively accurate predictor of what the set-in-stone schedule would look like once those tickets approached the 100-day window.
Unfortunately, now that the world is still in recovery mode from the pandemic, the placeholder schedule is becoming less reliable. Znotins points out that when headlines such as U.S. Airlines To Cut More Than 30,000 Flights This November come out, it’s seen as a significant shift in airline schedules. According to the VP, however, this is how the airline industry has been operating since the pandemic started.
Why Not Change The Placeholder Schedule?
According to Znotis, American Airlines still uses its 2019 schedule as its placeholder. It follows that many other airlines are likely doing the same thing. Since the world operates quite differently now, using the 2019 schedule as the placeholder has proven less reliable than anticipated.
“We would really like to have a better placeholder out there, but, unfortunately, to have a better placeholder, you need to know the schedule you’re actually going to fly, and we don’t know that until we build the actual schedule. You have to go through the process to know what flights exist,” said Znotis during the interview.
So, why sell placeholder flights that don’t make it to the actual set-in-stone schedule? Znotis points out that in cases where the carrier knows for certain a flight won’t exist on its placeholder schedule, they will remove it as an option. However, in cases where they aren’t certain, they will still sell the flight. The uncomfortable reality we have all had to come to terms with this summer is that the aviation industry never knows if it will have enough support. Znotis points out that the carrier doesn’t know how many airplanes, pilots, mechanics, and ground staff will be available to support the schedule until much closer to the 100-day window.
What Does This Mean For Travelers?
For travelers, this means that, when possible, it will be better to only book flights out up to 100-days in advance. Doing so will lower the chances of a flight disruption significantly, especially with American Airlines. Not only will this help lessen the chances of a canceled or altered flight, but it will also often save travelers some money.
Travel Off Path recently reported the best times to book flights for the most significant cost savings. Nearly all the best deals occur when booking less than 100 days in advance. The only exception is for Europe trips when fares are cheapest 129 days before departure. For the best times to book holiday flights and flights to other regions, read more HERE.
Travelers have had to deal with a lot this summer. However, booking flights at the right time, minimizing your chances of lost luggage, and knowing your passenger rights will help ensure that you are getting the best deal and that everything goes smoothly.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com