Myth versus Reality: Travel Beliefs and the Truth Behind Them

By | 2018-06-06T15:59:16+00:00 February 12th, 2018|Business Travel, Research and Statistics|

While travelers at large businesses have corporate travel agencies who book their flights and hotels for them, the vast majority of business travelers actually book travel for themselves on public sites like Orbitz, Expedia, JetBlue, etc. And because business travel accounts for more than 20% of all trips booked, business travelers and the travel industry evolve together, pushing each other forward as they learn and grow. So, why is it that some commonly held beliefs about getting great deals or the best perks still prevail despite the industry moving past them?

We investigated the travel myths that have survived generations of business travel and sorted through the overwhelming amount of travel advice circulating online to give you information that will help you book what you want, the way you should.

Myth: The Best Time to Book is On a Tuesday Night

According to this long-standing myth, many people believe that either Tuesday night is the best time to book flights or that buying your tickets three weeks before a domestic flight yields the top savings.

Reality: There’s Not a Best Time to Book, There’s a Best Time to Fly

When purchasing flights, there really is no best time to buy. Unadvertised sales can happen at any time. Numerous factors affect pricing for flights and accommodations. It would be great if you could count on one specific day of the week to get you the best fares, but industry experts are quick to dismiss this common myth, “Don’t listen to anyone who says there’s a magic time or day to buy airfare. There is no secret time. You need to look four times a day—minimum—every day of the week, as far in advance as you can.”- George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.

There are, however, a few days that are cheaper to fly. Domestically, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are your best bets for scoring great fares. Maybe Monday is the day you tie up last minute details at the office before flying out Tuesday for midweek meetings. If you have to fly overseas, flying Monday through Thursday is where you’ll usually find the best international flights. Then you can extend your trip for a few days of bleisure (business + leisure) travel fun before heading back to the office.

The best thing you can do is set up airfare alerts that are emailed to you or push notifications via an app. Skyscanner, AirfareWatchdog, Kayak, and Google Flights are some of the many options that will notify you when a destination you’ve wanted to visit is at its best price. You can also look up the “shoulder season” for your destination. Shoulder season is the time between high and low season when you are more likely to land cheaper deals. Again, when you book isn’t the money saver. It’s when you fly.

Myth: Searches Are Tracked via Cookies

It costs money to publish flight fares and availability so that you can book online and as such, airlines care about their “look-to-book ratio.” This all-important ratio refers to the number of searches done in relation to the number of bookings made. The fewer “looks” it takes to get a “book,” the more money the airline makes. As such, travelers have always suspected airlines, and online travel agency (OTA) sites track window shoppers and up their prices to dissuade them from searching again so that only “real” shoppers, who are more likely to buy, see low prices.

Reality: Sites Do Use Cookies but Probably Not to Increase Prices

Sites increasing prices on repeated searches because a website stores data via cookies has never been proven by consumer advocacy groups, but of course, like any site you visit, cookies track your behavior as you navigate that website, so it hasn’t exactly been disproven. In reality, cookies are often used by airlines to retarget ads to you, not jack up your prices. Retargeting is the use of cookies to track your activity on a website so that they can target ads to you on other sites you visit (like Facebook). It’s often done through third-party sites like the Google Display Network and allows an airline to target you across millions of websites in the hopes of bringing you back with more personalized content and relevant offers.

You can read more about this on a website’s Privacy Policy page like this one from United.

View of a Southwest Airlines planeMyth: There’s Only One Way to get Great Flight Deals

While you can book flights through supplier sites, travel agencies, aggregators, consolidators and more, many people often fall into one of two camps:
1) Those that believe that you can only really save big by booking directly on supplier sites like Marriott or Delta
2) Those that believe that booking through an Online Travel Agency (OTA) like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity that aggregate supplier content is where you find the best savings

Reality: There are Numerous Methods of Finding the Best Deals

Ultimately, your travel experience is a give and take of what you want, what you need and what you’ll pay for it. Any seasoned business traveler booking their flights and accommodations has their tried and true methods. You can utilize third-party sites to find deals and compare it to a direct booking from the airline or hotel. If you’re actively engaged in loyalty programs, direct booking makes the most sense for you to grab your points.

Third-party sites can offer you great prices that you may not find through direct booking. If something goes wrong, you have an Online Travel Agent there to navigate the headaches for you. Some OTA sites have their own loyalty programs if you’re committed to getting those aggregated deals.

Myth: Hidden City Ticketing Is Just a Smart Way to Save

Let’s say that you need to fly from New York City (JFK) to Chicago (ORD) and your research has shown that you won’t get a flight out for less than $600. You find a flight leaving JFK headed to Los Angeles (LAX) with a stopover at ORD for $300. You can book the flight to LAX and simply disembark at ORD in Chicago, saving yourself a nice chunk of change in the process.

This approach got so popular, a startup called Skiplagged actually formed to take advantage of these savings.

Reality: Hidden City Ticketing Has Several Risks You Should Be Aware of

The risks of this booking method are equally spread amongst other travelers as well as yourself. Airlines are in the business of getting you safely to your destination when you’re unaccounted for at the gate for your connecting flight, you cause a certain amount of chaos. While gate agents aren’t in the habit of waiting on connecting flights, it’s not uncommon for no-shows to cause delays for other passengers trying to get to their final destinations.

Airlines are like any business; they’re looking to turn a tidy profit for getting you to your destination. Over time, a loss in revenue from lost fares for hidden city ticketing will only translate to rising costs across the board. If that’s not a deterrent, consider the legal implications of using this method. The likely result, as some have found, is being kicked out of an airline’s rewards program if you do this regularly. “In addition to revoking elite status and invalidating frequent flyer miles, an airline has every right to refuse you service, bump you from future flights — whatever revenge they see fit.” – Melanie Lieberman, Travel + Leisure.

If you’re still sold on using this method, consider the likelihood of unexpected reroutes. If your stopover destination is suffering inclement weather, you may be on your way to another airport and forced to purchase an additional flight to your initial destination anyway. Lastly, if you end up arriving at your gate to a full flight and a gate agent requiring you to check your carry on, it’s headed to the ticketed destination without you unless you manage to shrink that carry on into a bag that fits under the seat in front of you.

Resources:
the skift podcast Busting The Myths Of Bad Travel Advice
Number of domestic leisure and business trips in the U.S. 2008-2020
How to Find the Lowest Airfare?
Why Hidden City Ticketing Really Is Too Good to Be True

 

These are only some of the travel myths currently flying around. Have any of your own to share? Comment below and let us know myth versus reality.