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Let's say I'm buying a roundtrip ticket between Austin TX and Boston MA. I have a few websites where I'll scour for a good fare, and, inevitably, a pop-up window will appear, asking:

Create a price alert for fares between Austin and Boston?

In the past, I have generally dismissed this window, figuring that, as time inches closer to my departure date, fares usually go up, not down, as the less expensive seats are taken one-by-one. However, lately I've been wondering: Am I shooting myself in the foot by ignoring these prompts and buying whatever fare I can find while I'm looking?

Just to provide a bit more context: I usually am purchasing domestic flights within the continental U.S., and I usually shop three or four months prior to my planned departure dates. I usually have little to no flexibility in the dates that I travel.

Has anyone had repeated luck signing up for these alerts and then being notified of a true bargain fare? Or is this just a way to get my email address for future spam?

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    Anecdote: last summer we had alerts on flights from Amsterdam to Mexico and they went both up and down. But as with shares, deciding when to buy is still a form of art. – Jan Doggen Feb 12 '18 at 18:51
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The price alerts are just another source of information. More information can only help when it comes to purchasing airfare. You might eventually get spam but I have price alerts from three sites and they have not sent me many so far.

Searching for the flights yourself will lead to the same results and potentially an even better fare, just as you are likely to miss on a good price. These alerts are not sent the instant a better price becomes available but at a certain scheduled time based on prices that were recently found. This means that by the time you get the alert, the fare might be gone. It is also less good for travelling with family since the ones I use (not sure if others do it differently) alert about there being a spot left but even when you try to book, there is a only one seat left note or something similar.

In your situation where you know your dates months in advance and those dates are not very flexible, I would expect these types of alert not to find many better deals than what you get. Prices do go down though but often these come at a cost of a more lengthy and complicated route.

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This is purely from a sample size of one but I signed up to Google flight alerts 87 days ago for flights between Manchester (UK) and various airports in the Alps. It seems that for in this case, the price of the route has fluctuated, with a general increase. I can say I haven't received any additional spam from Google, and they already had my email address for other purposes anyway.Screen shot of graph of flight prices

It should though be noted that any of these services will only show a change in prices after they have happened. If you receive one saying the price has gone up, it's too late. And you'll have to guess weather or not it will continue to go up, or go back down again.

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