Holiday Central

$100 to Paris: How to navigate airlines' Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales

Key Points
  • Airlines and other travel sites have offered Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
  • Some deals are coming out the week before Thanksgiving.
  • To save money, travelers should be flexible and consider going in the off-season.
Martin Dimitrov | Getty Images

Airlines want to get consumers away from the mall — like, thousands-of-miles-away far.

Domestic and international carriers, along with hotels and online travel agencies, have jumped on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bandwagon in recent years, offering low fares for what are typically slow travel periods. Some of these sales start long before the turkey has been purchased.

Four-year-old French airline La Compagnie recently advertised $1,000 round-trip airfares for flights from Newark Liberty International to Paris on its all-business-class planes. Icelandic budget airline Wow Air is promoting flights to Europe from several U.S. cities for as little as $100 a leg.

Some airfare sales could be worth waiting for a few days after Thanksgiving. Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at airfare-tracking app Hopper said the so-called Travel Tuesday after Thanksgiving last year brought twice as many sales than usual.

Travel is an excellent gift for those who value experiences over material things, but just as with shopping for a new television after Thanksgiving, there are a few things to keep in mind when searching for that post-turkey getaway to Paris or Aruba:

'Don't try to game the system'

Fare sales come and go, sometimes within hours. Airlines are operating fuller flights these days, partially the result of historically low airfares, even during peak holiday periods.

"Really, these peak holiday fares are similar to what non-holiday fares used to be … an ebbing tide lowers all boats, to rephrase the old adage," said George Hobica, founder of airfare tracking website

If you see a great deal, waiting could leave you disappointed.

"Travel inventory goes quickly," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research Group. "Don't try to game the system, especially given the demand environment."

One bonus if you get cold feet: Airlines allow travelers to cancel their tickets with no penalties within 24 hours of purchase.

Be flexible

After the summertime, Thanksgiving is among the busiest times of year for air travel. If you can travel in the off-season, you'll not only be rewarded with a good airfare, but with better hotel rates, a spot on the beach, or access to cultural institutions that aren't packed with the usual selfie-stick-wielding hordes.

Or, treat yourself or your loved one to some solitude. Alaska Airlines, which is running a fare sale starting on Black Friday, said nearly 70 percent of the tickets it sold on Cyber Monday last year was for solo travel.

Another thing to consider is that demand for certain destinations might be higher than normal. Thousands of travelers were forced to put off trips in August, September and October to the Caribbean and Florida as a series of deadly hurricanes struck the region. JetBlue said it would shift service away from Puerto Rico this winter to other destinations, which could include more seats to Florida or other Caribbean destinations, as Puerto Rico struggles to rebuild.

Track airfares. You might not even see the best deals

Travelers may not even see the best airfares if they are only checking the sales pages of airline websites. Airfares can change in minutes, depending on demand. Because not all airfares are advertised as a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal, or any other sale, some travelers may miss the fare altogether. Services like Hopper and Google Flights allow travelers to track airfares and sign up for alerts when prices drop. Keep in mind that Hopper does not include airfares from Delta or Southwest, which restrict some online travel sites from access to their feeds.

"They could be selling off inventory," Hopper's Surry said.

Hopper allows travelers to look up a region or many destinations if they aren't sure where they want to go.

Hobica recommended checking airlines' Twitter and Facebook feeds for price cuts. Packaged trips, which include a flight and hotels often, will have significant discounts on airfare, he added.

Specials outside of the airport

Airlines aren't just hawking seats on their planes. American Airlines is offering members of its frequent flier program, AAdvantage, the chance to earn up to 50,000 miles when spending with partners including Hilton and Avis. United Airlines said it will increase the number of miles it gives members of its Mileage Plus program for gift cards they purchase through its site, as well as discounts on the miles required to buy items, such as Apple electronics, through the airline's site.

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