Not all air tickets require payment immediately. The due date for payment varies by booking method, type of airfare, and seat demand.

Many factors determine when an airfare has to be paid. All airfares have an in-built ticketing time limit. The ticketing time limit specifies how soon after a reservation is made, that payment is required. It can vary depending on booking online or with a travel agent. The cheapest flights usually require payment sooner than more flexible fares. And during busy periods, the airline may bring the ticketing time limit forward so that unwanted seats are released more shortly.

This information is based on airfares sold from New Zealand but is likely to apply elsewhere.

Online Versus Travel Agent Payment Deadlines for Air Tickets

Payment dates for the same air ticket can vary depending on how you have booked the flight. Most online flight booking engines require you to pay for the visa as soon as you have made the reservation. However, with some airfares, especially long-haul airfares, a travel agent can hold the same seats for a more extended period before paying for them.

For example, if you book a London to Singapore flight on the Singapore Airlines website, you will be required to pay for the airfare straight away. However, if you book it through a travel agent, you may not have to pay for the air ticket two weeks before departure. So it is handy if you are booking in March, but your flight is not until July.

Similarly, if you ring Singapore airlines and book with them directly over the phone, they may also be able to hold the seats without payment until a later date.

Airfare Type Determines Payment Deadline for Airline Tickets

Cheap airfares have more restrictive rules. It usually includes having to pay for the airfare sooner rather than later. For example, airfare specials often require payment within 24, 48, or 72 hours, even when travel is not for several months.

If you purchase flights for travel in another country, then payment is usually required the same day. If you purchase a ticket in Australia to travel between Brazil and Argentina, the airfare is likely to be an ‘instant purchase’ airfare. It means that it needs payment straight away to secure the airfare quoted.

The payment and ticketing date for business class flights tends to be much closer to the departure date than economy flights. There is greater competition for economy flights than business class flights. In addition, business class flights are a lot more expensive, so you get to book now and pay later.

Airlines can Bring Air Ticket Payment Dates Forward.

Most people who travel at Christmas, New Year, school holidays, or other traditionally busy times will understand the importance of booking early. One book early to avoid disappointment later when they cannot get a seat. However, booking does not necessarily mean having to pay straight away.

If seats fill way in advance of travel, the airline can bring the ticketing time limit forward. This forces people holding seats to either purchase them or release them.

The airlines can also bring the ticketing date forward if they plan to increase airfare. If you have a seat held through a travel agent or with the airline directly, the agent or airline will contact you to allow you to purchase the airfare and avoid the increase, or keep the seat but pay for the new higher airfare later.

When do Airfares Require Payment?

If you are booking online, then airfares require payment straight away. The advantage of this is avoiding any potential airfare increases. However, if you are uncertain about whether you will travel but are anxious to hold a seat, then booking through the airline over the phone or with a travel agent may buy you more time before paying.