HOW far in advance should you book a flight to get the best price? That is a question that many travellers agonise about. Yet people around the world do not respond in the same way to the incentives they are given.

New data from Concur, a travel-software firm, compared flight-booking trends from five countries. Their researchers found that the penalty for booking at the last minute is by far the greatest in America. For domestic flights in America, tickets booked fewer than eight days in advance of travel tended to cost 39% more last year than those purchased at least 15 days ahead of time. The equivalent figure for France was 27%, 19% for Canada and 16% for Germany. In Britain (where there are comparatively few domestic flights), waiting to buy a ticket until the final eight days actually saved travellers an average of 3%.

Economists, then, would expect Americans to be the most careful about booking flights ahead of time, and German and British people to be the most lax. But this is not the case. In the average month...Continue reading