Just how big was Delta’s Boxing Day sale??


As sale/mistake fares trickle through the GDS systems and then through online communities the scale can be hard to measure, especially as an outsider looking in on the environment. The Delta Boxing Day sale – thousands of routes available for <$50 and many premium cabin routes for <$100 – is a great example as it truly was a spectacular set of fares and it spread rapidly before Delta pulled the plug about an hour after it picked up steam. And, thanks to Hopper Research, there actually is some GDS data available on the event.

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The numbers are, in many ways, staggering. During the two hours the sale was live there were roughly 83,000 searches performed which returned a result with a Delta fare lower than $50 (that’s the arbitrary threshold they used; it excludes nearly all the premium fares which were part of the sale). There were roughly 5,300 markets (city pairs) where the fares were discounted as part of the deal. That number might be double reality as the fares are all symmetrical and the data shows the queries in each direction but it is still quite a significant number of markets. And the lowest fare reported was only $11.

It is not entirely clear why the JFK-LAX route was, by more than 3x, the most popular search in the data set but I will admit several of them were mine. That said, I don’t think any of mine came in below the $50 threshold Hopper used because I was searching for business class seats (fare was ~$64 round trip). Still, more than 14,000 searches on JFK-LAX pair over the two hour window is impressive. And Delta “won” nearly 100% of those searches during the sale window. Here’s a snapshot of that data:

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I’m also impressed about the long tail of the search spike, showing the impact news of these deals can have, even after they’ve ended.

Anyways, there is often a lot of talk and speculation about these deals and their impact on the airlines. These numbers from Hopper don’t reflect bookings, just searches, but they do show just how quickly and broadly the news can spread and what it can mean to demand patterns. Delta’s rapid(ish) response also shows the changes airlines have made in monitoring such patterns to limit their exposure. Unfortunately for Delta their exposure in this case was still quite significant.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

5 Comments

    1. Heh…I was only looking at the BizE seats for $40 o/w so I didn’t realize coach was that cheap. I suppose that does explain the volume of traffic on those.

  1. FWIW, when DL honored my 2 biz tickets ($117 total for 2) for JFK>LAX which were booked via Priceline but never ticketed, I asked the supervisor how many tickets were issued, and he said close to 30,000. Not sure the accuracy but that’s about as close as I can get…

  2. Was there a primary channel through which this news spread? This post is the first I heard of it…

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