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David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org <![if !vml]><![endif]>Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD
Travel Coupons… – April 2023
<![if !vml]><![endif]> Everybody knows how coupons work. You cut them out of a newspaper of get them in the mail or via email, and you get some savings off of what people without them would pay. In the travel industry however, they don’t always work the same way. Many times they are only miniscule or non-existent discounts intended to lure you into buying a trip or service that you wouldn’t otherwise consider.
Let’s start with cruises. The very popular on-line “MyVegas” game (and others from PlayStudios) let you spend four million VIP credits for a “free 7 day cruise for two” coupon to various locations. When you try to use that coupon it is of course for a dark, windowless closet next to the engine room (or that particular ships equivalent of a room no one would want.) When one tries to ‘upgrade’ to a desirable room with a balcony or equivalent, you get a discount in exchange for using the coupon…50 whole dollars. Since when can you buy a “free 7 day cruise for two” for $50? It’s obvious that for everyone that might use the coupon for that horrible experience there are at least a dozen people that are getting very little value for their four million points when they try to upgrade. In addition to that example, there are many casinos that offer a “free annual cruise” to members of their players club. When you try to use it you find it is for that same interior / inferior cabin on a very limited number of four-day trips. When you inevitably try to upgrade to a better cabin or a longer sailing you will likely receive a price that is just about equal to what you would get simply by going to the cruise line’s website and using their latest public offer. Here again ‘free cruise’ means little or nothing.
Airline “sales” are just the same. When airlines announce they have short term huge savings it is very difficult to actually reserve one of these mythical sale prices. (Not that we’ve had airline sales recently due to the very heavy demand, but this is how they used to work.) You often wind-up booking a ticket that is eerily the same cost or a higher cost then it would have been if there had been no sale.
Then, if you subscribe to travel bargain sites with regular emails, you’ll often see an subject lines that say something like “Fly nonstop from [US destination] to [European destination] for $364 roundtrip this fall, traveling on select dates…and saving $250 on regular fares” or “[Caribbean destination]: packed-with-perks beach getaway, $699 for 2.” Same problem here – if you try to book the deal you either won’t find it or it will be far more expensive than stated.
The problem with coupons in the travel industry is that they’re all hearsay because there is no consistent value for the travel. Costs are infinitely variable at the whim of the travel company – which often directly or indirectly colludes with all other travel companies to maintain the level of pricing. There is nothing stopping airlines from taking a typically $500 fare and raising it to a $600 fare and then saying that they’re offering a $100 coupon. (Although it’s far more likely for them to take a typically $300 fare, raising it to $800 then touting a $150 off fare sale – actually masking a huge, gouging increase in the language of a sale.)
And just don’t get me started on rental car sales or upgrade offers. One can easily rent a vehicle with a “triple upgrade” coupon and still find they’ve reserved a tiny car with no features. It’s like offering a ‘four star rental’ in an industry where rental grades clearly go up to something like fifty stars.
The key for savvy travelers is to be very skeptical about coupons, sales and anything else that claims to be a bargain. ALWAYS make an attempt to book the travel without using the coupon or sale, then compare the discounted price to what it would cost without it. Also (and this is EXTREMELY important) do all of this without allowing the travel websites to install cookies on your computer. Firefox has their “private browsing” mode, Chrome offers “incognito mode,” etc. Use these modes to ensure that the travel company can’t track that you’ve priced these options, so they won’t be aware when you’re going back to try the coupon or sale.
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Strap yourselves in for a crazy summer of traveling this year. More than one travel professional has told me that much of Europe might as well just hang a “closed / at capacity” sign on the borders. The pent-up demand for vacations is through the roof. Don’t expect too many fare sales this year, and if you are traveling, expect crowds everywhere.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
Copyright 2023 David Danto
As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree. Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me. Thanks!