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Best time to book domestic plane ticket?


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In early January next year I'll need to get from Shanghai to Xi'an. Usually I take a hard sleeper train but having not been in China for ages things seem a little cheaper so I'm thinking of catching a plane instead. I notice on elong.com that Shanghai to Xi'an will cost me about 1200 kuai for the 7th of January. But doing a search for a few days away from today costs just 400 kuai. Are the tickets usually cheaper if you book closer to the date of departure? Is January a big travel season in China so tickets are more expensive?

What's the best way to get a cheap plane ticket?

Thanks to anyone with any advice.

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I read somewhere (and by now, it's also some time ago already, probably a year or so) that price only start going down approximately two to three weeks before the date. You could find out if you check flights in two, three and four weeks' time and note their differences.

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If you book too far in advance the airlines haven't decided what discounts they are offering, and all you can get is full price tickets. Best thing to do is wait for the discounts to start showing up and then book if you know exact travel dates. However you can (as you've seen) still get good discounts closer to the date of travel, so if you value the flexibility there's often not much harm in waiting.

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I've tried to figure out the system many times and except for a holiday this is usually how it works:

1 month-1.5 months in advance the price starts dropping

3 weeks before date hits low and only stays here for max a week

2 weeks it starts getting expensive as trying to get people to buy in a rush

1 weeks it is nearly full price

Less than a week there will be one or two days where it drops all of the sudden but immediately goes up again

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