Before everyone in Thanksgiving rush-hailers started making stops at the malls and the swanky department stores, all the way back in 2014, thinking about going Black Friday shopping wasn’t as big of a deal for air travel. But lately that’s all changed, with several airlines having begun offering Black Friday deals just in time for the holiday. And travel experts have noticed a big uptick in travel made ahead of the holiday. That’s something they also noticed back in 2014.
The travelers plan to hit the malls and the department stores before the holiday, but the rest of the time they’re waiting for the day after Thanksgiving to come around again.
“Black Friday is becoming increasingly less of a Black Friday and more of a Black Friday getaway,” said Ryan Henderson, the vice president of Skift, a travel and tourism business intel website. He explained that demand for pre-holiday travel has been going up just in the last couple of years.
That rise comes after a bit of a lull. “Pre-Black Friday travel dipped to a low in 2016 and has been slowly climbing since,” Henderson told The Daily Beast. “We expect demand to climb even more in the coming weeks with a number of airlines and retail stores launching pre-Black Friday sale offers.”
Other experts agree that while it might be more tempting to stay home to pick up a few things from the pared-down Black Friday deals, those who do have to go to the mall anyway or go on an all-inclusive vacation for the holiday — well, these might actually be better options. For instance, according to Travelchannel, “Bargain-hunting airfare may prove more enticing than going into the malls.”
Even while traffic on the usual year-end travel months, spring and summer, has already dipped, the United States Travel Association predicts things are going to get even worse this year for air travel. According to the Association, air traffic for the days leading up to the Christmas holiday alone is predicted to decline by 6.3 percent from last year.
The Black Friday deals by airlines like Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Virgin America will only keep people traveling earlier and earlier. In some cases, not even the holiday itself.
Travel experts noted that the airlines most interested in getting people to take early flights are those that typically see higher than average cancellations on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Travelers can expect to find flights at more than half the usual prices, including $29 to Atlanta and dozens of other low-cost flights.
The Black Friday flights, when not being used for holiday getaways, are often only available online. For the few travelers who wait until the last minute and show up at the airport for a last-minute flight, airports often have a handful of employees working to help passengers pick up their bags. Most travelers who make trips that day also seem to have a tendency to book their travel a week ahead.
The point is, if you have to make the journey this year for some reason, be prepared. That this shift into a year-round travel season may be good for air travel, but it’s probably also a source of frustration for airport workers and potential Thanksgiving travelers.
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