Last minute air travel leads leads to fewer seat options and, typically, higher air fare costs. Almost 1 out of 5 online searches for air travel were for last minute air travel during the 3rd quarter of 2015, according to a recent report.

Last Minute Air Travel Defined

“Last minute” in this context is defined as travel departing within 7 days from the date of booking. Not surprisingly, due to the sometimes uncertain timing for business, business travelers comprise the majority of business travelers. For example, through the first two quarters of 2015, 56% and 73% of all last minute air travel bookings were made by business travelers.

In addition, last minute air travel is primarily made for solo travelers. During the 3rd quarter of 2015, searches for last minute air travel for solo travelers comprised the majority of searches by region: North America (72%); Latin America (71%); Europe (68%); Middle East (75%); and Asia-Pacific (75%).

Last Minute Air Travel Frequency

During the 3rd quarter of 2015, 19% of online searches for airfare in North America were for last minute air travel.  This was higher than the level for the 1st and 2nd quarter, which was 16% and 15%, respectively.

Comparing regions during the 3rd quarter, North America was tied with the Middle East for the highest percentage of searches for last minute air travel. Asia-Pacific reported the lowest percentage of last minute searches at 15%. Therefore, the frequency of last minute searches is fairly similar across regions. In addition, reviewing the frequency of last minute air travel searches by quarter and by region during 2015, the lowest frequency was reported for Europe at 14% during the 1st quarter of 2015 and the highest frequency was reported for Middle East at 23% during the 1st quarter of 2015.

Last Minute Air Travel Volume

For 2013, the estimated annual volume of commercial air travel in North America was as follows: 815 million travelers flying on 11 million flights. Through the first three quarters of 2015, 17% of air travel searches in North America was for last minute travel. Applying 17% to 815 million, the estimated number of last minute air travelers in North America is 139 million. Based upon 11 million flights in North America, the average number of last minute air travelers per flight is 13.


Last minute air travel is the reality for a significant portion of air travelers, most of whom are traveling for business. On increasingly crowded and cramped airplanes, last minute air travel often results in air travelers choosing among limited seat options. Seateroo’s online market for airline seat swaps can help such air travelers find a better seat. At a price, other air travelers may be willing to swap seats.