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Starting before I woke up this morning Flyertalk, miles and points blogs, and Twitter caught fire with talk about $50 – $100 international first class fares and Denmark. You may have seen it. I hope you saw it. It’s over now, but you can read more about it here if you are curious. Update: United has made a statement that tickets will be voided and not honored. Some folks (not me) will be filing DOT complaints, so keep the popcorn coming cause this one isn’t over yet…
When my husband is out of town and I’m doing the single parent thing in the morning to get my kid to school, I don’t have the luxury of writing posts early in the day. That means I didn’t write about this deal before it died, but instead I want to now write about how to make sure you don’t miss out on similar offers in the future.
1. Follow some miles and points people on Twitter or Facebook.
I don’t care if you think social media and selfies are leading to the downfall of society (even though you may be right), it is also contributing to the real-time sharing of amazing travel deals. Even if you don’t use social media at all for your “real life”, use it for travel deals, and follow some key people who can keep you in the loop. I didn’t have time to write a post about this first class deal this morning, but I was sure to re-tweet the information from someone else who had. If you are new to Twitter, here is a post on some people I recommend following. At the very least, follow at least five or so different miles and points bloggers that you like, and that will get you started in the right direction. You can find me @mommy_points.
There are also various miles and points private threads, forums, and informal groups of friends that share these sort of deals with each other, so it pays to network outside of just social media sites, too.
2. Check social media regularly, including before you go to bed and when you wake up.
Okay, this is where it might cross into the world of crazy-town, and if you are someone who doesn’t check your phone last thing before bed and first thing in the morning then good for you. I’m a little envious and don’t
ruin your life change your routine to emphasize your smart phone just because I said to, but know that you will miss out on some key travel deals if you only check-in during normal business hours. I’ve missed plenty of deals because I go to bed too early or get up too late, which I’m okay with, but I always kick myself when I miss them just because I didn’t spend 10 seconds glancing at Twitter.
If a deal is big enough, it will be easy to spot on social media because everyone in the miles and points world will start sharing it. Normally deals will be on Twitter before they are in actual blog posts (since blog posts take more time to write than a Tweet), so you don’t need to stalk the blogs all day long, just keep an eye on social media.
3. Have a list of places you want to go and dates you can travel.
When there is a “sale” like $100 first class international tickets, you can bet it will be a time limited opportunity. It may last minutes, or at best a couple of hours. The closer you are to normal working hours in the location that the deal originated, the shorter the period of time the deal usually lives. This means you never know how much time you have left to make a decision, but it usually isn’t very long. You have to be decisive and move quickly if you want in on the deal. If you have a partner who normally likes to think travel plans over for a long period of time before acting, that won’t align well with jumping on limited time deals. I recommend explaining to them how these limited time situations work and ask them to trust you if you ever have to book something faster than they usually like. My family has gotten used to the process and learned to “just say yes”, but they used to move too slowly to snag killer deals.
To move this quickly, you need to have a written or mental list of everywhere you would like to go in the next 12 months, as well as travel dates that would work. Then just use that list to book now and ask questions later if a deal matches up with where you want to go. You can typically cancel your airline tickets within 24 hours of reservation for tickets more than 7 days out, so there is usually an out if you change your mind later in the day and decide you don’t want to go anymore. However, you can’t decide you wanted in after the deal is dead. You also can’t decide to add friends or family to the reservation after the deal is dead, so if the price is low enough, or you can refund it later in the day, I say book for too many as opposed to too few.
4. Know that it may not work out.
Some deals ultimately are not honored because they were mistakes rather than deals. It truly isn’t always possible to know a mistake from a deal at first, though sometimes you might have a gut feeling on which is which. Even mistakes are honored sometimes, so you can’t possibly get in on the deal if you don’t try. However, sometimes the mistakes are not honored and the reservations are either cancelled, or you have to fight like heck to have yours honored. I’m not much of a fighter over things like that, so I recommend not counting on something to be honored until it is. Sometimes you will be very pleasantly surprised. Airline tickets that go through the United States are typically honored because of regulations (though that may change in the future and there are caveats), but hotel reservations, or airline tickets where there aren’t those regulations are more in jeopardy of being cancelled in the event it was an error and not a sale.
Usually you will know within a week or two if something will be honored, so during that time I wouldn’t book any other non-refundable portions of the trip. Some people have learned to book these sort of “sales” for immediate departure before they can be cancelled, but I imagine most families probably won’t have that as a viable option.
5. Don’t do something you aren’t comfortable with.
Some of the sales are really legit sales. Some are mistakes where the price has been fat fingered, currency conversions are off, or some other factor is causing a trip to price for less than it normally does. Again, you can’t always tell which his which as I have seen true sales offering $1 flights between the US and Europe (with taxes added on top of the $1 fare). Earlier this morning I could buy a tickets for my family of three from London to Houston in United BusinessFirst one-way for 1,013 DKK if I told the United site my billing country was Denmark. For those not familiar with Danish Krone, that is the equivalent of about $153 USD for three one-way business class tickets from London to Houston. Lots of people jumped at the chance to buy tickets for that price. Some others said that would be “wrong” or “fraudulent” and sat on the sidelines.
I’m not saying either group is right, but I am saying just do what you are comfortable with. If a website displays a price and you want to book it, go for it. If a website displays a price and you have a gut feeling that price is too low and you don’t feel comfortable booking it, then that’s okay too. Some of this will be in the grey area, and where that grey turns to white or black will be different from person to person. If you manipulate browsers, open up duplicate frequent flyer accounts, etc. it is possible the airline may shut down your accounts.
Who all got in on this round of sales?