Airline “Sales” Events: What You Need To Know

Black Friday is almost here, but most brands have launched their special sales already. Including airlines. But here’s why airline “sales” events are a waste of time for 99% of you (really: they mostly suck).

Here at Flytrippers, it’s truly as if it was Black Friday every day thanks to the crazy airfares we spot on our cheap flight deals page. Yes, every single day we share plane tickets that are up to 50% off. Those are very interesting deals.

Soon we’ll also publish an article with specific examples of how the formal “sales” advertised by airlines aren’t interesting at all. But today, we want you to understand why it’s kind of a scam.

So, apart from two exceptions, airline “sales” events aren’t nearly as interesting as they want you to believe (especially compared to the normal deals we spot).

Whether it’s Air Canada’s frequent sales or WestJet’s (Porter has some too), the fact is all sales that traditional airlines advertise and publicize in general aren’t very good at all. It’s mostly a marketing ploy.

For real, it’s not a goof deal (again, there are two exceptions). Even for Black Friday.

So what’s the difference between these formal sales and the deals Flytrippers curates on its deals page?

Here are the two exceptions and why airline sales are a waste of your time.

Why Airline Sales Are Bad

It’s not the first time I write this sentence, but plane ticket pricing mechanisms are extremely complex, much more than almost any other product or service in the market some would say. There a lot of articles coming soon about how it all works, but let’s start with these airline “sales”.

Airline Black Friday sales (and all other airline sales events for that matter) are much less interesting than the flight deals published on our website daily. Why?

Essentially because what airlines in Canada include in their formal sales are often small discounts, not huge deals. There are dozens of different airlines that operate hundreds of different routes (and serve even more destinations with connections) and it’s simply not realistic for one (traditional) airline to have a sale where they’ll undercut every single competitor with a lower price all at once.

That’s also why the worst mistake you can make when looking for a plane ticket is to only search on one airline (especially an expensive airline like Air Canada, but any airline really). This will sound ridiculous to most experienced travelers, but you might be surprised by the number of people who tell us they shop for their flights on Air Canada’s website first. That’s a great recipe to overpay.

I’ll actually have a related blog post for you soon that answers the frequently asked question about which airline is the cheapest (subscribe to our free newsletter to get it first).

The best illustration that airline sales aren’t very good is that our Flytrippers algorithm that spots all discounted flights on all airlines every day has barely featured anything that qualifies as a good deal in any of the so-called “sales” Canadian airlines launched this week for Black Friday. There have been just a few from each Canadian city and they’ve been posted to our deals page, as usual (you’ll better understand with our article that contains specific examples coming Saturday).

We’ll tell you more about why it is this way if you like understanding the details, but first let’s take a look at the important exceptions.

The Two Exceptions

You might have noticed above, I specified we were talking about the sales advertised by traditional airlines. That was done on purpose.

The first exception is Ultra Low-Cost Carriers (ULCCs), as these airlines have a completely different business model and have basically nothing in common with regular airlines in terms of pricing.

READ ALSO: How Ultra Low-Cost Carriers Work 

These airlines definitely have good deals during their formal sales events, and of course you’ll find the best prices for all their destinations on our cheap flight deals page.

Why is it different for ULCCs? I’ll tell you in the next section if you want to know.

The second exception is if you really need to buy a ticket for a specific destination and specific dates (and they happen to be included in the sale). Either because you really need to be somewhere specific, or because you make the most common mistake those who believe in the (completely untrue) myth that plane tickets are expensive often make, that is the mistake of deciding on a specific destination and specific dates first.

More on that next week on our blog, but that’s the best way to overpay. You need to prioritize low prices if you want low prices.

So if you happen to need to buy a ticket to one of the destinations featured in a sales event, you might find something interesting. You might find something cheaper than the regular price, just not cheaper than our deals. But for those who don’t have the flexibility required to wait for a deal, it can be useful.

But you also might be able to find an even cheaper option by simply using our flight search tools that compares all airlines and all booking websites (and will include all sales event in one place of course).

Difference Between Sales Events And Actual Deals

To sum it up in one sentence, airline sales events are excellent if you were already planning to go to one of those destinations and had to buy a ticket anyway but you’ll never decide to go somewhere because of the prices you find there (it’s just not discounted enough for that).

At Flytrippers, the deals we curate for you every day are incredibly low prices. Each airline will only have a few of these, where they drastically lower the price to liquidate seats on specific flights.

Like the ones I bought from Montreal to Singapore for $499 roundtrip (wasn’t planning on going, but that was too cheap to pass up). Like the ones I bought from Montreal to Lebanon for $390 roundtrip (wasn’t planning on going, but that was too cheap to pass up). Like the ones I bought from Montreal to South Africa for $550 roundtrip (wasn’t planning on going, but that was too cheap to pass up). Like the ones we bought from Montreal to Europe for $247 roundtrip (wasn’t planning on going, but that was too cheap to pass up). 

You get the point. You’ll never find exceptional deals like those in airline sales events (except ULCC sales).

So at Flytrippers, our deals are often so cheap that you’ll buy a ticket to go somewhere even if you had absolutely no intention of going there, because the price is so low. That’s the biggest difference.

Why Airline Sales Events Aren’t As Good (And One Example)

Airlines will almost never advertise the deals we find: it’s so cheap that they know they will sell those tickets without having to spend money on advertising to promote them, which isn’t the case with their formal sales events that are mostly just a marketing ploy as I said.

And plenty of other media outlets fall for it, talk about these “sales” and make a big deal out of them… even though 99% of prices in there are not that discounted at all (you won’t believe our examples Saturday…)

As mentioned, basically none of the prices we’ve seen in the Black Friday sales even meet the threshold to be featured on out deals page, it’s simply not enough of a discount.

But like I said, it’s quite normal, no (traditional) airline can put dozens of destinations at a steep discount simultaneously. That’s what you need to understand about airline sales in Canada, it’s mostly just a marketing initiative. It’s a very small discount available for a large number of destinations and dates, instead of a huge discount on a few destinations. To have a bit of everything and have something relevant to a broad swath of customers.

Given how flight deals (real good ones) always expire quickly, and given how many people must check out the airline’s website during an advertised sale, if there were any huge deals, they would expire right away and people would be mad, because a large percentage of travelers don’t understand how flight deals work at all (or how flight prices in general work).

I really didn’t want to include any examples, because this post is already long enough and I wanted to keep them for the follow-up article Saturday, but I can’t help myself. I’m only showing one, this screenshot of Air Canada’s great Black Friday sale, departing from Montreal.

There is their selection of Black Friday deals to the US. It wouldn’t be thaaaaaaaaaaaaat bad (but not that great either honestly) if these were roundtrips. What? 

Yes, seriously: those are one-way flights.

Ouch. Going to Texas for $680 roundtrip (more expensive than my flights to South Africa or Singapore). What a sale right? 

That’s what I mean. You’ll see more examples Saturday.

But that doesn’t mean these sales are completely useless. There are obviously a few somewhat interesting deals in the Black Friday sales. And there is one upside to these sales: since the prices aren’t marked down as much, there are usually more dates available than in our Flytrippers deals (our deals are often 50% off the regular price, so there are very limited dates). 

So formal airline sales are definitely better than paying regular price. Yes, there are savings.

But most of the time, they can absolutely not be described as huge savings either, especially sales by airlines whose airfares are generally more expensive than others (not to single out Air Canada again, but they are unavoidable in Canada whether you like it or not).

Really good deals will come up on their own, organically, for a variety of reasons, but they’ll rarely be advertised or promoted. Airlines basically don’t make much money on the flights we spot at very low prices on our deals page, the price is just too low.

What we publish is the very best price and flights at those prices are there to be cleared out and airlines won’t spend money on advertising for tickets that cheap. The low price alone is good enough for them to sell the tickets without spending anything on advertising.

They spend money on advertising for sales like the Black Friday sales, because with those smaller discounts, they still make decent profit (which necessarily means you don’t get a great deal if they make good money).

That’s the main difference with Ultra Low-Cost Carriers, who have a business model entirely based on the concept of selling (lots of) really cheap tickets (which is obviously not the case for traditional airlines). That’s why ULCCs have true deals in their sales events and that they can promote them heavily: that’s their business model.

So to find the best deals (which are available year-round of course), we recommend that you subscribe to our free newsletter, that you follow us on Facebook and most importantly that you check out our website every day: incredible deals will come from dozens of different airlines and it’s simply unthinkable for you to search every website for all the possible destinations individually.

That’s why we do it for you, so you can find all the best flight deals in one place.

Bottom Line

So here’s what you need to know about airline sales. They’re better than nothing, but they most likely won’t get you a deal as good as what we find every day.

Did you previously think that these sales events were any good? Do you have any questions? Ask them in the comments below.

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about travelling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself, he aims to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveller, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to Travel Hacking... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 41/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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