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The bleeding obvious: Germans are cautious by nature and like to arrange lots of things long in advance. People with schoolchildren will generally arrange and start booking their holidays a year in advance and the culture is full of similar examples.
Also, as with many markets, there is a non-negligible cost associated with watching the market for the best time to buy. Unless you're buying lots of flights, and most of us aren't, you won't be in a position to know whether it's a good time.
There is another reason for business travelers to book late and pay higher prices. The airline reward points are now based on the ticket price, not miles flown. So, when the employer is paying, why bother booking flights early? A friend, who works for the United Way, laments how donated money is wasted by employees by late bookings even though meetings are planned well in advance.
In my days, for business travel, we had to book early and stay a Saturday night to get the best price.
This tends to reinforce the view that competition is a lot less fierce in the US than elsewhere thanks to airlines having quasi monopoly status out of certain hubs.
not sure the comparison with Europe is always accurate - after all most of mainland Europe has very good rail interconnections, whereas in the US it's just hte north-East corridor from D.C. to Boston that can be considered seamlessly connected. I wouldn't expect the atlantic and pacific coasts to be connected due to distance, I just mean there are fewere non-flight options vs Europe where there are more, so airlines' power to extract maximum pain for last minute bookings is amplified.
Academia doesn't have to make money, so they can plan ahead for their sabbatical.
Could stingy North American holiday allowances be producing a skew here? Here in Canada, minimum annual leave in nine of the 10 provinces is a mere two weeks per year, though labour law in most provinces raises the minimum to three weeks after anywhere from five to 15 years with the same employer. Saskatchewan is an outlier, with three weeks per year to start -- the only province to meet the recommended minimum established decades ago by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In the U.K., Ireland, continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the legal minimum is four weeks per year.
One would expect that such modest holiday allowances, not to mention extreme climate variations during the year, would have a substantial effect on booking behaviour and the business-versus-leisure traveler balance in the passenger cabin. Specifically, one would expect us Canadians to book fewer leisure round-trips per capita, but to be away for longer periods of time to make the most of our precious holiday allowances when we do travel. It is also expected business travelers, who book closer to the date of departure, would make up a larger share of passengers, especially in November when leisure travel is at a low point.
"Economists, then, would expect Americans to be the most careful about booking flights ahead of time..."
Or, economists might guess that the premium on last-minute flights in the U.S. is a reflection of Americans' demand for them.
Exactly what I came here to post!