I’ve had a trip planned for this weekend for a few months now. I knew that I would be going to Florida for the Freddie award ceremony. And I knew that I’d have to stick around until Saturday for another meeting associated with the event. What I didn’t really know were the rest of the details for the trip. And up until early this week I still hadn’t finalized those details. It turns out that the downturn in the economy has opened up at least one major benefit for the traveling public: prices are not spiking very close to the departure date like they used to. This allows customers to delay spending money on a ticket until closer to the actual trip, which is a very good thing for the customer. Of course, it has a negative impact on the merchants.
Airlines in particular are keen to sell tickets as far in advance as possible. They get to sit on the cash until they actually fly you somewhere which is very useful for their balance sheet. Some airlines, such as Continental, actually use that cash as part of the assets used to secure fuel hedges, so the need for that cash in their coffers is very real. But advance bookings are down – a LOT. Folks aren’t buying the seats. And so the prices on many flights are staying low rather than increasing. In fact, the cost for a flight to get home from Tampa next Tuesday actually dropped over the weekend rather than increasing as I expected it to. So by procrastinating I actually saved $20 on that deal, though I did forego collecting the miles on that part of the weekend’s travels. Still, not a bad trade-off to me.
Hotels are the other major group that are struggling with bookings, but the prices there are not reflecting the impact quite as much. Still, some aggressive and educated use of Priceline to bid on hotels can solve that problem very much in the consumer’s favor. I paid about a third of the going rates for the hotel rooms I’ll be staying at during most of the weekend. Not too shabby.
Anyways, the final details of the weekend are pretty entertaining. Over a six day/five night span I’ve four different hotel stays, thirteen flights, five airlines, almost 10,000 miles in the air and somewhere around 30,000 frequent flyer miles earned. Oh, and I’ll also re-qualify for top-tier status on my alternate carrier for next year. That means I’ve hit top tier elite on two airlines this year before the end of April. Oh, and almost all the flights this weekend will be in first class though I only paid for coach on all of them. I even have a day off while in Florida where I’ll probably spend some time diving and relaxing on the beach. Not bad at all.
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