How To Think About Jumping On Great Deals For Future Travel

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. $1200 to buy an international business class ticket right now seems nuts to me. Buying a $60 roundtrip transcon basic economy fare for summer or fall (yes, they exist) that you can change without penalty for a voucher seems like the type of deal travelers should be looking for.

  2. Right now for me the only travel I’ll book internationally is on points with low surcharges/taxes. They are more flexible, puts little cash at risk and the points are at risk (to varying degrees) whether or not I put them to use.

  3. Airlines are desperate for revenue right now. The worst of the outbreak should subside in 1-2 months, and plenty of good fares are 2+ months out. It’s a good deal for us, because the airlines want cash in their pocket *now*.

  4. I guess you didn’t see the AF La Premiere OW from Algeria last week for lat 2020 ~$475.

  5. Spending $1200 on a flight with an airline that declares bankruptcy puts you in a very bad spot trying to clawback a refund. Why would anyone be lending out money to a company on the brink?

  6. I will wait till there is a vaccine thank you.
    There is no steal of a deal I’m interested in at any price
    I’m sitting on over 6 million credit card points and miles and the only thing that looks appealing is restaurant gift cards for take out in upscale restaurants.
    I plan to give away some of my miles
    Being I don’t need to book hotels airfare or buy transportation etc I’m feeling wealthy again 🙂
    I cut up most my American Express cards after 40 years with them (horrible overseas customer service) They use to be great now evil and bordering criminal in policies
    Got a cash back card with Citibank through Gary’s referral page
    Redemption costs in airline FF programs at an all time outrageous high to redeem in these frequent flyer programs.
    500k one way to Australia in business class? hello Delta and American
    50k in coach to fly to Ohio?
    They have shot themselves in the foot and the virus cemented the deal
    My health trumps any deal or reward and until the crisis is resolved I’m out!
    I’ve seen colleagues/friends who are way younger than myself in a variety of countries go down with the virus who are single or bringing it home to their wife or partner/family
    Grateful to not be sick at the moment.There has never been a worse time in our lifetime to be in a hospital now or travel 🙁 Stay Safe all

  7. @ Gary — Unless airlines start using escrow accounts for ticket purchases, I think I’ll keep my cash for myself.

  8. @ Gary — I do not think Swiss business from Phoenix to E. Europe for $1,200 is good deal. Before COVID-19, we had Swiss First booked for $1,900 LHR-ZRH-PVG. Now THAT is a good deal!

  9. Flying like normal each week, got heaps of international travel coming up, and looking to double down at great rates for summer.

    I don’t understand all the articles about this over and over.
    $1200 business class is a deal, especially if it’s got all the waivers needed to protect you.

    I pay for J usually, and my travel calendar is filling up for the rest of 2020 with all these deals.

  10. Is your college or university shut down and your favorite Spring break beach closed? Some (irresponsible) people may choose to “hunker down” by taking advantage of the non-stop American Airlines flights between Los Angeles and Miami for $20 each way. You can enjoy an excellent selection of free in-flight movies, some complimentary airline snacks, and beverages while flying on a super-clean and almost empty wide-body aircraft. Just hop on the next flight to return. Lather, rinse and repeat. As a bonus, you can now earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles on any American Airlines flight, which helps you attain MPV Gold75K elite status on Alaska Airlines. This can be your best opportunity to earn airline elite status at a bargain price.

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