One of our more frequently asked questions goes something like, “I’ve heard that if I wait until the last minute, there’ll be unsold seats that the airlines will be giving away. Should I wait?” Is this true? Do last minute sales on Christmas flights exist?

How often do the airlines run last minute holiday flight sales?

Unfortunately for travelers, this strategy is highly unlikely to pay dividends. Last minute sales for flights are largely a thing of the very distant past.

U.S. airline capacity has been shrinking for many years, and COVID largely put the last nail in that coffin. There are now fewer airlines, flying fewer planes, with fewer seats.  The airlines are excellent at matching supply with demand. Even during non-holiday, non-summer travel periods, flights almost always fly full.

Do the airlines add flights during the Christmas holidays?

Customers also ask us, “Can’t they just add more flights during the holidays?” We wish that’s how it worked! Planes are expensive and no airline can afford to have a lot of extra aircraft sitting around that they only put into service during peak travel times. So the fact is, during the holidays the number of flights operating is essentially the same number that would operate any other day of the year, even though a lot more people are flying.

That’s not to say that if you wait until the last minute there will be no chance of getting a decent price. There might very well be some sales on Christmas flights to some destinations that have extra seats. But don’t expect massive discounts on these. Much more likely would be a scenario where, if you are extremely flexible and willing to travel on days and times that aren’t that popular, you might be able to get a fare only slightly higher than what it would be if you bought in advance. That’s not much of a reason to wait. Our advice, if you know you’re going, buy now. You have very little to gain by waiting and potentially a lot of money to lose.

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2 Comments

  1. Man, what a waste of time shopping on your site !!
    It seems that an entire month can be open for a certain fare — until I click on what I want and then five dates or so are marked as ‘not available’.
    Not only a waste of time but deceptive and enough to never return… and enough to tell others not to waste their time.

    • Hi Warren,

      Thank you for your feedback on our flexible date search. I understand your frustration. Please allow me to explain a little about how the system works.

      When you do a “flexible date search” on our site, it lists the lowest possible fares, before tax, and without checking availability. So those fares may or may not be available on the dates you want.
      Unfortunately, this aspect is what causes the most frustration.

      For example, if American Airlines has a special sale, where all flights from Los Angeles to New York City on Monday and Wednesday in the month of March are $100, the system will display every Monday/Wednesday as green. This does not mean that there are tickets available for any of those dates. It only means the sale they are offering covers those days.

      When you select a date, the system then checks for availability. If flights are available, it will display them, giving you a choice of what time you wish to fly. If not, then you will get the “We’re sorry. The date you selected is sold out” message.

      We realize this can be upsetting, especially when you have attempted to check several dates and not found the fare you were looking for. We are actually currently working to improve the system and hope we will be able to assist you with your travel needs in the future.

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