Recently I have had to book a last-minute flight and have found the prices to be so much more expensive than I would have expected. You would logically think that last-minute fares should go down right? After all an empty seat doesn’t generate any revenue for the airline, so why wouldn’t they want to discount the fare to get ‘bums on seats’?

Well if you’ve ever asked yourself the same question and have ever hoped for that last-minute flight decrease, here are our top 5 reasons why you’ll generally find airfares more expensive instead.

1. Business Travellers: At the beginning of the early 1970s airlines realised that people booking last-minute flights were not holidaymakers but were in fact business people who didn’t schedule their meetings months in advance.

Business travellers often don’t have flexible travel schedules and need to attend meetings or conferences at short notice and they don’t care how much a flight costs, since many companies have travel budgets that can accommodate higher fares. This means, airlines capitalise on this and jack up fares instead of slashing them for these types of bookings.

So if you're a leisure traveller looking for a little last-minute getaway, don't count on any great deals popping up at the last minute to get you there.  Instead, be prepared for airfares to skyrocket. 

2. Have you ever heard of yield management? Airlines employ complex pricing strategies known as yield management to optimise their profits. They use sophisticated algorithms and historical data to determine the best pricing strategy for each flight. This includes setting higher prices for last-minute bookings, as they are often made by you guessed it - business travellers or individuals with urgent travel needs (aka me) who are willing to pay a premium for the convenience.

3. Higher operational costs: It is more challenging for airlines to manage logistics, crew scheduling, and optimise their resources when dealing with last-minute bookings. These operational complexities and the need to accommodate late additions may result in higher costs for airlines, which can contribute to the higher prices of last-minute flights being passed onto you - the leisure traveller looking for that last-minute bargain.

4. Reduced availability of discounted fares: Airlines usually offer discounted fares for early bookings as part of their marketing strategies to fill seats well in advance. However, these discounted fares typically have limited availability and may not be available for last-minute travellers. As a result, the remaining fares tend to be higher-priced.

5. The economic concept of supply and demand: Airlines typically set their prices based on supply and demand dynamics. As the departure date approaches, the available seats on a flight may become limited, and the demand from travellers who need to book at the last minute increases. This imbalance between supply and demand allows airlines to raise prices to maximise their revenue.


If you’re not already aware the best time to book airfares domestically is 1 - 3 months in advance and internationally 2 - 8 months from your departure date, as this is when cheap airfares are more likely to pop up. Also, keep in mind peak season dates when searching and don’t book too late, as we know airfares are more likely to go up.

However in saying this, not all last-minute fares are equal. If you book an airfare 1 month in advance it is almost certainly going to be cheaper than a flight booked 1 week in advance. Likewise, a flight booked 1 week in advance is almost always cheaper than a flight booked 1 day in advance. This means if there is a flight you’ve been meaning to book but keep putting it off hoping to get a great deal - stop waiting, your best bet is to jump online RIGHT NOW and book that flight ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll end up overpaying.


Not all hope is lost though. If you generally try and avoid budget airlines like the plague, then the one time to consider flying on them is when you’re looking for last-minute flights.

Remember the main reason why last-minute flights are so pricey: because airlines want to gouge business travellers. But business travellers rarely fly on budget airlines, which means the last-minute flight you are searching for is more likely to be more affordable on budget airlines, who tend to primarily cater to leisure travellers.

There you have it, our top 5 reasons as to why last-minute flights are more expensive, from business travellers not caring about price to fewer seats being available. If you want a great deal on a flight then it's always a good idea to compare prices across different airlines, book in advance and be flexible with your travel dates to potentially find better deals, even for last-minute bookings.