Black Friday Travel ‘Deals’ Could Cost You More

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Another year, another Black Friday. The busiest shopping day in the U.S. has become synonymous with retailers pushing basement bargain promotions the day after Thanksgiving.

Retailers have pushed Black Friday to a four-day sale frenzy, that now extends into what is known as “Cyber Monday.” In the U.S. alone shoppers spend over $50 billion over a period where shops and online retailers slash prices to attract deals.

The travel sector is no different, with airlines, hotels and online booking sites posting discount fares and flash sales in advance of the deal-ridden holiday sale.

However, are travel deals over Black Friday really the best prices that shoppers can find? The ever-elusive question in travel is when is the best time to book your vacation. There is no clear answer to this, as sometimes booking in advance can save travelers money, and on other occasions last minute fares pose the best value.

Many airlines tend to drop their prices up to a week before Black Friday for promotional fares that are between certain restricted dates. Not only do many travel deals come with date and booking conditions but can also be deceptive in their very advertised nature, which includes additional costs of tax and add-ons.

The U.K. consumer group Which? has conducted a survey on Black Friday travel bonanza deals from 2018 and found that the deals advertised were sometimes cheaper after the Black Friday discount sales had ended.

The findings from Which? showed that 8 out of 21 city breaks that EasyJet claimed travelers could save £50 on were actually cheaper two weeks later. Although 90% of fares on low-cost airline Norwegian were cheaper than two-weeks later, the airline promoted discounts of 15% and 30% on long- and short-haul fares respectively in 2018. However, the Which? survey found a maximum saving of just 10% as many advertised fares excluded taxes and charges.

Therefore, those strikingly good travel deals advertised in the sales may not be that great at all. Very often, airlines and travel companies will actually run recurring sales throughout the year from New Years to Easter so Black Friday is certainly not your only chance to bag what are often advertised as some of the best fares available. Whatsmore, many companies offer promotional fares for certain events. Take British Airways for example, who celebrated their 100th anniversary this year’s with some great deals, particularly in premium cabins. The Dutch airline KLM is also celebrating their centennial and Eurostar sees its 25th anniversary, so it’s worth looking for “birthday fares.”

In the U.S. airlines tend to push travel sales throughout the year for events ranging from Columbus Day to Halloween, and of course Black Friday is no exception. For example, this year JetBlue offered domestic U.S. one-way flights for just $31, however with strict conditions, travel could only take place on Halloween itself. The main consideration for travelers is usually the lack of flexibility in advertised sale fares, and whatsmore, the presence of recurring promotions. JetBlue have offered Halloween sale fares for the last few years, so by following airlines and travel companies social media accounts and email subscriber lists, would-be travelers can spot the spectacular fares first. The important thing to remember is that the fares advertised on Black Friday are often not the cheapest, nor your only chance to bag a bargain. Promotions do occur all year round.

With the demise of Thomas Cook earlier this year in the U.K. the market can likely expect some basement travel deals to destinations that have been left with huge vacancies. Tour operators such as Thomas Cook tend to block buy rooms at discounts to fill, and destinations such as Spain, Tunisia and Morocco have excess capacity to fill, likely cheaply.

TUI have taken a large chunk of Thomas Cook’s capacity that it left on the market, so you can expect some good sale deals over the next few months. However, Black Friday may not be the best time to book. Which? analysed that last Black Friday TUI offered discount codes on their holidays of up to £150, however these codes did not work on 40% of the holidays that Which? searched for. These kind of promotions also have minimum spend and black out date restrictions which is always worth considering before jumping into what may appear to be a great deal.

When I reached out to TUI a spokesperson for the company said that “holiday pricing is very complex and there are many variables which have to be taken in to account.

“These can contribute to price fluctuations from year to year or even throughout the year. We offer exceptional value for money and wherever possible, we offer discounts to our customers throughout the year, even in peak periods, as an incentive to book. All codes are subject to minimum spend values in order for them to be applicable.”

It is important to wary of deals that in fact may not be deals at all. For example, children eating free, of even traveling for free will likely be subsidized elsewhere through adult supplements.

Essentially, check the terms on any deal this Black Friday, and do your research. There may be a better deal just around the corner. The travel market is incredibly competitive and companies are offering year round deals, so Black Friday won’t be your only chance.

Easyjet and Norwegian did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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