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The Best Airlines To Buy Last-Minute Flights According To A New Study

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You know the feeling when you have to buy a last-minute plane ticket and your anxiety is up because you know it will be expensive?

Everyone has that feeling.

Woman sitting in the airport with laptop

Airlines are known to raise their prices at the last minute, even if the plane is almost empty when you're trying to buy a ticket. It's a way for them to get more money due to a last-minute purchase. 

What if there is a way to do it and not spend all your money on one flight? According to a new study, a few airlines are the best to buy if you're looking for a last-minute getaway. 

While they could change, knowing which airlines to fly somewhere quickly and cheaply is excellent. The worst feeling in the world is knowing you can't fly out because it's too expensive or you spend more than expected, and your journey starts on the wrong foot. 

There are a billion reasons why you would travel last minute, but you shouldn't have to pay a premium if you're forced to. The next time you're in a time crunch and looking for flights, look at the airlines below. 

According to a new study from Upgraded Points, check out which airlines are the best to buy last-minute flights:

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable man running at the airport at last minute for immediate departure of his plane.

Spirit Airlines

According to the study based on Google data from February 2023, Spirit Airlines is the best place to buy last-minute plane tickets.

The average last-minute one-way ticket would cost $170.09, which can be a portion of a flight (depending on where you're going) on any regular day. 

Spirit Airlines is budget-friendly and does the job if you need to fly somewhere last-minute. Next time you're in a rush, check out Spirit Airlines. 

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Blagnac Airport, Toulouse / France - 12.15.2018. Airbus Plant. Yellow passenger aircraft Airbus A320 of Spirit Airlines. Tail close-up.

Southwest Airlines

Another budget-friendly airline that is more economical, Southwest Airlines, charges an average of $233.72 for a last-minute purchase of a one-way ticket.

This depends on where you're going and when, but just like Spirit Airlines, this price is usually a part of a regular plane ticket on any other day. 

Another exciting thing about this airline is that it allows you to cancel without fees. That helps when you're shopping around for last minute-deals and need help determining which airline to use. 

A Southwest Airlines plane taking off on the runway

United Airlines

United Airlines is less budget-friendly than the first two, but surprisingly they average $272.80 for a last-minute one-way plane ticket.

This is close to what Southwest Airlines charges, and the experiences can differ depending on who travels. 

This airline is known for having many domestic airports on its roster, so booking with them might be the easiest if you need to travel further. 

Tail Of United Airlines Aircraft In The Air Midflight

American Airlines

$282.61 is good if you're looking for a last-minute deal. That's what American Airlines charges for last-minute purchases of a one-way flight, on average.

This makes the world available for last-minute purchases since the American Airlines network is probably one of the biggest globally. 

american airlines plane

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines ends the list with the most expensive last-minute flight purchase. On average, it costs $369.12 for a last-minute one-way plane ticket. This can hurt a little, depending on your sensibilities. 

On a positive note, Delta Airlines has a great network and fewer delays than other airlines. It's been sourced as one of the most on-time airlines recently, which explains the hefty price for a last-minute plane ticket. 

Don't let the heavy price deter you, though; there are a few perks with Delta that you might not find on the other airlines, best of all — reliability.

The underbelly of a plane with the Delta logo.

Overall there are pros and cons to flying last-minute with these airlines. They're the best price-wise, but you may encounter delays or cancellations.

Paying a bit more sometimes helps out in the long run, but if you find a good deal, it might be worth snagging it.

The next time you're flying last minute, check this list. It'll save you some time and money.

This can help you start your journey on the right foot.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Wednesday 12th of April 2023

I would like to know the criteria for these last minute flights. My personal experience is that they cost well over $1,000.

Al LeFeusch

Thursday 13th of April 2023

@Marc, same.

Jim R

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Be aware of Spirit's luggage fees. My wife paid $120 roundtrip for a carry-on. It was supposed to be nearly $190 but she got a discount at the counter. The free personal item might be sufficient for a quickie overnight trip.

Francis Williams

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Spirit airlines might very well be the best airlines to purchase last minute flights but who in their right minds would want to fly with Spirit-world's worst airline!! That's the reason they have so many last minute seats available.


Wednesday 19th of April 2023

Absolutely correct. Terrible airline filled with surprise fees. Uncomfortable. Scratch them.