Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Labor Day fare sale (NOT)

"Don't spend your holiday weekend at home this Labor Day," United Airlines urges. "Take advantage of low Labor Day fares!"

The wife and I have been searching for some last-minute getaway ideas, since my birthday falls on Labor Day this year, so United's promotion caught our notice. A quick glance at the terms, however, revealed that the "Labor Day Savings Sale" was no sale. The valid departure and return dates did not line up with the actual Labor Day weekend dates—at least not in any practical fashion.

Sure, you can leave on Saturday, September 5, and return the next day, if your idea of a Labor Day getaway is spending all weekend flying. Or you can depart and return on the Tuesday or Wednesday preceding or following Labor Day, if you have the vacation time to tack onto your holiday weekend. But if you've got the extra time off, wouldn't you rather use your vacation days in conjunction with a non-holiday weekend, when things are cheaper and places less crowded?

So once again, we have an airline fare sale that is not really a sale. You can find one of these "sale fares" if you're willing to fly on the most inconvenient dates and times; but that's true anytime you fly. If it were a real "Labor Day Savings Sale," the airline would offer a limited number of low fares for Friday and Monday, the preferred departure and return dates for Labor Day Weekend.

Yes, those travel dates are the highest in demand, so why should the airline offer low fares on those days? The answer is, they shouldn't. That's not the issue. But neither should they call a fare sale a "Labor Day" sale if it's useless to anyone traveling on Labor Day Weekend.

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