With Black Friday and Cyber Monday anchoring an ever-growing calendar of holiday marketing gimmicks, consumers have no shortage of deal-hunting opportunities around the Thanksgiving holiday.
That’s especially true in the travel industry, where hotels, cruise lines and other travel providers all get in on the act.
Airlines are in the mix too, though holiday bargain-seekers looking for airline deals might be advised to temper their expectations.
There are several reasons for that. First, airline sales have become ubiquitous. It’s common to see them throughout the year, often at prices so low that they'd be hard to top.
With fares to Europe now regularly less than $500 round-trip and with domestic sales that drop fares to less than $100 round-trip at least twice a year, can “Cyber Monday” or “Black Friday” holiday sales be that much better? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean thrifty fliers should ignore them altogether.
Some of the holiday sales will offer decent, if not jaw-dropping, bargains. Or maybe this is your chance to snag one of those low fares you missed during a previous sale. Also note that at least one fare-monitoring site suggests this year’s best holiday-themed sales may actually come out on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
We’ve included a handful of airline holiday sales below, and we’ll continue to add noteworthy ones to the list as they’re announced. Some will be flash sales that aren't announced until later in the week, so it pays to keep an eye open for updates.
Regardless, always read the fine print. Restrictions can include available travel dates, day-of-the-week exclusions or restrictions on fare types. Some may exclude one-way fares. Others will reveal flashy “half off” discounts, but the fine print might reveal that’s only from an expensive “full-fare” ticket. Also, remember, most sales cover weak periods of the year when fewer people want to travel – and those are the seats that the airlines are hoping to offload on you.
Now, with all of that out of the way, here are some of the earliest promotions that you might want to check out.
This Icelandic discounter is known for its bargain basement fares between the U.S. and Europe, previously offering fares as low as $69 one way. Its “Purple Friday” deal isn’t that good, but WOW is offering fares for as little as $99 one way from a handful of U.S. cities. Seats from the West Coast begin at $129.
But this “Purple Friday” sale actually began Monday, and the cheapest seats will sell out as customers book them. And, remember, WOW charges extra for nearly everything beyond walking on to the plane.
One early "Black Friday" deals comes from Cathay Pacific, which is discounting business-class fares from the U.S. to Asia by as much as 60%. While fares of about $3,200 aren't pocket change, it is a relative bargain for business-class seats on one of the world's best airlines. Early searches showed decent availability to Hong Kong, but spotty availability to other Asian destinations.
Also part of the Black Friday deal are Cathay Pacific's highly regarded Premium Economy seats. Tickets for those seats begin at around $1,200 round-trip, about half off typical fares.
For both deals, tickets must be booked by Nov. 29 for travel between Jan. 1 and May 23.
Delta is touting "Black Friday" deals to one of its newest destinations: The Azores. The route was just announced in September, when Delta said it would add flights from its hub at New York JFK to the Portuguese-controlled island chain in the North Atlantic. Flights to the Azores’ main international airport in Ponta Delgada will start May 24 and run through Sep. 3, adding a new destination to Delta’s route map.
A round-trip purchase is required, with coach-class fares ranging from $599 to $919.
Alternately, Delta also is running a "pre-holiday award deal" offering discounts on award tickets booked with frequent-flier miles. The deal, which requires a round-trip purchase, drops award tickets to as little as 11,000 miles each way on select routes. Among the offerings: New York LaGuardia-Miami (12,000 miles); Boston-Orlando (14,000 miles) and San Diego-Salt Lake City (11,000 miles).
Aer Lingus' "Cyber Sale" promises modest discounts to those who book by Nov. 27 for travel between Jan. 8 and March 22. The Irish carrier says on its website that fliers from the U.S. East Coast will get $50 off fares to Ireland while this on the West Coast are eligible for a $100 discount. On its vacation packages, Aer Lingus is advertising a 15% discount.
Air Canada's early Black Friday deal is out for travel from the United States and from Canada. Many of the advertised prices appear unremarkable, but are some are cheaper than average (such as New York-Montreal, $156 round-trip, with restrictions). Full details are at Air Canada's website. Book by Nov. 26.
Air China is advertising 15% off round-trip fares, noting that the offer is "subject to availability." Book by Monday, Nov. 27, for travel through April 30. Blackout dates include Dec. 9-25, Jan. 1-13, Feb. 10-16 (inbound), and Feb. 20-28 (outbound).
Spirit has rolled out a Black Friday sale in which the airline is advertising fares of 90% off. The one-day-only sale must be booked by midnight Friday (Nov. 24). The sale fare dates are highly restricted: Only flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between Dec. 5 and Feb. 13 are included. However, even among that portion, flights between Dec. 19 and Jan. 3 are blacked out. To get the deal, customers must enter 90PCT (all caps, no spaces) in the "Promotion Code" box when booking the fare. And there's more fine print: The offer is valid only with fares of $49 each way or higher at spirit.com. Many, but not all, of Spirit's routes are included.
Air New Zealand is known for competitive Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Its Cyber Monday deals usually roll out overnight from Sunday into Monday U.S. time. Interested folks can track updates at Air New Zealand's U.S. website.
Southwest is likely to have various Cyber Week deals during the period. It's current offering is for $250 off flight and hotel packages via its Southwest Vacations set-up. Southwest customers should keep tabs on the airline's website for the latest updates.
OK, it's not an airline sale, but this one will still have some appeal to those who travel by trains in the U.S. Amtrak's "Friday sale" promises 25% to 30% off its various routes. In the Northeast, the deal is for 30% off on Amtrak's "Northast Regional" service that includes that popular Washington-New York-Boston line. Also 30% off are Amtrak's Pennsylvanian, Keystone (with some exceptions) and Vermonter lines. Nearly two-dozen of Amtrak's other lines across the country also are on sale for 25% off. The sale covers travel from Dec. 11 (Dec. 27 for the Northeast Regional, Keystone and Pennsylvanian lines) and March 25. Note that there are various blackout dates across the different lines. Book by the end of Monday, Nov. 27, but note that discounted seats could sell out on individual trains. Amtrak's Acela high-speed trains that run from Boston to New York to Washington are excluded from the sale.
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Qatar Airways' Black Friday offering is extremely modest: $50 off new bookings when users enter the "SAVE50" promo code. The sale ends at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 27. The offer is good for flights from Jan. 11 through May 31, though there is fine print to save the $50. Among the restrictions: a seven-day stay is required to apply the savings to the cheapest fares.
Frontier Airlines has rolled out a one-day Black Friday sale in which it promises 90% off by using the promo code SAVE90 when booking online. The sale ends Friday night. It covers domestic travel from Nov. 28 through Dec. 19. Sunday flights are excluded from the sale. Frontier has excluded more than two dozen routes from the sale. You can see the rest of the fine print on Frontier's website.
At the same time as its black Friday sale, Frontier also is offering $20 base fares as part of a separate sale covering some of domestic routes. That sale runs through Sunday, Nov. 26, and covers travel through March 7, though there are blackout dates. On the selected routes that feature the $20 fares, the deal is good only for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. See the full fine print.
Alaska Airlines is advertising Cyber Monday and Black Friday flight deals from most of the cities it serves. The advertised fares on many routes are reasonable, but are frequently less-expensive during sales at other times of the year. Still, there are decent bargains on some routes, such as a number of $98 round-trip fares on shorter routes from some West Coast cities. Check out Alaska Air's sale page for advertised prices from your nearest airport.
American is advertising a "Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale" in which its offering $100 off its domestic bundled vacation packages or $150 off its international vacation packages. Check out American's sale page for the fine print.
Canadian carrier WestJet is advertising Black Friday flight deals from most of the cities it serves. The advertised fares on many routes are reasonable, but are frequently less-expensive during sales at other times of the year.
Canadian carrier Porter is advertising Black Friday flight deals from most of the cities it serves. The advertised fares on many routes are reasonable, but similar fares are frequently found during sales at other times of the year.
The fast-growing European low-cost carrier has put a number of destinations on sale from the United States, including some remarkable bargains. Among the highlights are tickets Scotland and Ireland for as little as $89 one way. Also on sale are flights to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, where fares are as little as $49 one way. Those interested in Norwegian's full set of fares can check out a list on the airline's website. Tickets must be purchased by Monday night (Nov. 27). The travel period for the sale varies by route.