As with almost every question, whether to jump on a travel deal now depends “on what margin?” Just how good a deal is it? That’s because there are some great deals now, but the future is uncertain.
Airlines want consumers to feel safe buying tickets, so many are waiving change fees on new ticket purchases – if you have to change your plans later, or where you’re going, you won’t be penalized (you just need to use the funds towards a different trip within a year of original date of purchase, though some carriers are working to offer longer periods)
We don’t know what destinations are going to be open again at what time. It’s likely many parts of the world could open sequentially, or in waves, rather than all at once.
In addition with an uncertain economy many people will consider holding cash for its option value rather than making discretionary purchases of travel until economic challenges pass.
Airlines have been making it harder to get your money back if flights cancel. Canada has even changed their consumer protection rules to permit this. The U.S. and E.U. still require refunds for cancelled flights. However several airlines are flouting these rules. (Currently the best advice if an airline fails to provide the service you paid for is to file a charge back with your credit card company.)
When travel does return passengers are likely to start showing up gradually. There are going to be a lot of empty airline seats, and a lot of empty hotels, at least initially. That means there will be a lot of competition for consumer dollars — through great deals. In other words, don’t feel like it’s a lost opportunity if you skip a deal now.
Bringing it all together what that means is that:
- booking now entails risks
- you likely give up very little by waiting
- so it has to be a truly uncommon opportunity to spur a purchase in the current environment
Last week I saw a SWISS fare from Phoenix to Eastern Europe for $1200 roundtrip in business class. That’s probably worth jumping on. But it takes a deal with that sort of discount to get me to pay any attention right now.