When not to buy an air ticket

How do you know when an airline is going to have a Sale? Actually, much of the time it is quite easy because airlines hold special promotions at fairly predictable times (Black Friday, after Christmas and so on). However, they do have quite frequent bursts of activity throughout the year and these can take you by surprise.

Sales are actually quite difficult for an airline to handle because they are offering a discount on something with no fixed price. Fares increase as seats are sold so a fare offered at a 20% discount during a Sale could still cost more than the same fare a week ago when fewer seats had been sold. That would not look good.

One technique used by some airlines and hotel chains is to gently edge up the base-price in the week before a special promotion. The price will still increase as sales are made but the starting price has been increased. Then, on the day the “Amazing Sale” is announced, the base-price is reduced again. Some of the fares will be genuine bargains but not all will have quite the amazing reductions claimed.

If you are looking to buy flights for next summer and have been checking up on fares periodically to see when they might reduce, you might notice a sudden slight increase in the week before Christmas. Unless there is just one flight to the destination you are looking at, there is no need to panic. Not many people buy tickets in the week before Christmas so airlines and hotel chains can do their own seasonal decorations on prices – before they suddenly reduce them on Boxing Day.

Sale Time

Travel companies do very little promotional work in August. It is pretty silly to be pushing holidays when an awful lot of people are away on holiday. The August Bank Holiday and “Back to School” period marks the beginning of the new campaign and many companies kick the season off by holding a Sale.

This year is a little complicated because August Bank Holiday actually falls a week before the end of the month so some companies might hold off for a week or so. British Airways normally hold a Sale beginning on August Bank Holiday weekend. Other airlines will follow and, even those who are not publicising their own sales, might want to match the prices of the airlines that are going full tilt. National Cruise Week in September will start a blitz of advertising by cruise lines. Hotel chains will start to unveil their Autumn deals and bonus promotions to members of their frequent guest programmes.

Flights and hotels are normally sold at rates that fluctuate with supply and demand so there is no guarantee that any specific rates offered in the next few weeks will be much better than those currently available – but there will be some good deals. If you are planning any sort of travel over the next few months, it is wise to start looking out for offers from this weekend.

Just as the country goes back to work, the whole travel industry gears up to tempt us away again.