Are flights actually cheaper on Friday the 13th?
F riday the 13th is more closely associated with black cats and horror films than it is cheap flights.
But over the past few years holiday firms have started claiming that the cost of air travel falls on the spooky date – with the savings attributed to a collective fear of flying on what’s often called “the unluckiest day of the year”.
Research earlier this year by flight comparison website Kayak.co.uk, looking at the 20 most popular departures from UK airports, found that the cost of flying on January 13 (a Friday) was, on average, five per cent cheaper than a normal January day. However, for those willing to ignore superstition and take to the sky, savings for some destinations were far more significant. Flights to Gran Canaria, for example, fell from £63 to £36 for the 13th, it said – a drop of 44 per cent.
The website carried out the same research in 2016, for flights on Friday, May 13, and found savings of as much as 41 per cent.
A spokesperson for Kayak said: “Flight prices are very much based on demand – when demand is up they rise and when it is down they fall. Our data, therefore, indicates that many are choosing not to travel on Friday the 13th.”
Another flight comparison company, Momondo, reported similar findings, with flights as much as 16 per cent cheaper.
Both websites found variations in savings depending on the destination. Does this mean flight costs vary according to how superstitious a country is?
We did our own research, looking at departures on April 13, 2018.
Is there a grain of truth behind the claims? Norwegian’s three flights from Gatwick to New York JFK on April 13 cost £183, £213 and £178, respectively. One week later, they cost. the same. However, its flight from Gatwick to Dubrovnik costs £93.30 on April 13; on April 20 it costs more – £104.40. Its flight from Gatwick to Budapest is far cheaper on April 13 (£90.80) – than it is a week later (£145.40). And its service to Alicante costs £97.10 on April 13; that rises to £104.40 on April 20.
But we found no variations on British Airways services. A seat on BA0059, flying from Heathrow to Cape Town, currently costs £1,566 on both April 13 and 20; a place on BA0139 to Mumbai costs £382 on both dates; and the lowest fare on BA0233 to Moscow stays put on £846. We check several other routes and the story was the same.
What about ‘superstitious’ China?
So, on the face of it, our research was at odds with the flight comparison websites. But then we thought of looking at China, often described as one of the world’s most superstitious countries.
But instead of using China as a destination (which might suggest it is Britons buying tickets), we looked at China as the starting point.
To our disappointment, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic prices did not vary on any of the routes we checked.
Air crashes on Friday the 13th
According to a statistical analysis by the Aviation Safety Network, conducted in 2013, the average number of fatal aircraft crashes on Friday the 13th days is 0.067 per day, compared to a usual daily average of 0.091. So if anything, it’s fractionally safer to fly on this supposedly unlucky day.
The website says there have been 118 Friday the 13ths since its air accident records began and eight crashes, including the October 13, 1972, crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The accident became famous after 16 survivors lived for more than two months in the Andes before rescue, an ordeal immortalised in the film Alive.
Interestingly, the statistics show that four of the eight Friday the 13th crashes happened on October 13 (1950, two on 1972, and 1978).
Do room rates fall?
What about hotels? Does the unlucky date prompt a change in accommodation prices?
Hotel comparison website Trivago carrired out an analysis earlier this year (looking at prices for stays on January 13). It found that the majority of locations did boast cut-price hotel rooms on Friday 13 compared to the other Fridays during the same month, with prices falling most in Liverpool (14 per cent on average), Dubai (10 per cent) and Paris (9 per cent).
However, a spokesman said at the time: “These prices are in line with the general price evolution of January. Similarly, in May 2016, some places displayed slightly lower prices on Friday 13. However, there was no conclusive trend to suggest that Friday the 13th has a great effect on accommodation prices.”