Unless you live on a different planet, you will have noted that "Black Friday" sales — once limited to the actual Friday after Thanksgiving — now start only a few days after Halloween and last until the year-end holiday travel hype starts. Although the original Black Friday promotions concentrated on electronic gear for a single day, they now apply to just about everything, including travel. My email inbox is full of messages from hotels, resorts, cruise lines, tour operators, local visitor promotion outfits, and their agents — far too many even to summarize here.
In general, most share a common theme: They apply to future, not immediate trips, and feature dates when the promoters clearly feel their principals will have excess capacity to fill. This again demonstrates that hoary travel precept: You get the best deals if you're flexible — flexible enough to travel when the industry wants you rather than when you'd prefer to go.
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If you haven't received enough of these notices already, you can Google "Black Friday Travel Sales" or more specifically "Black Friday Sales [destination]." If the flood of responses floors you, think about contacting a local travel agent.
In other news, the international airlines are figuring that spring and summer 2023 will be blockbuster seasons. One indication is that U.S. and European airlines are beefing up schedules on their current routes and adding new ones — especially to/from secondary cities, mainly summer-only, and many less than daily. British Airways, for example, just announced nonstops to London from Cincinnati — a first for the Queen City — and additional flights from Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon: industry gossip says Kansas City might be next. BA could even make it to 30 U.S. gateways this year. American will launch nonstops from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik, Bologna, and Edinburgh, Chicago to Athens, and Philadelphia to Berlin/Tegel, Dallas-Ft. Worth to Dublin, and Philadelphia. Delta adds flights from New York/JFK to Geneva and Berlin/Brandenburg, Atlanta to Edinburgh, Dusseldorf, and Stuttgart. JetBlue announced Paris as its second transatlantic destination, with nonstops from both Boston and New York. United adds flights from Denver, Houston, and Newark mainly to major Lufthansa hubs, but also the only nonstop from San Francisco to Rome. Other European lines will make similar additions.
Nobody is saying much about fares yet, but industry mavens are fascinated by the idea that slow business travel will result in low premium-class fares. I suspect, however, that cuts, if any, will keep premium travel in the "expensive splurge" range rather than the "no-brainer" range.
Travelers to/from Washington/Dulles and London/Heathrow are now able to take advantage of greatly improved rail service to/from their respective city centers:
– Washington's METRA has finally opened the long-delayed Silver Line extension from Dulles Airport to downtown. This is a big deal, given the previous hassles getting to town.
– Transport for London has started through-running Elizabeth Line trains from Heathrow via the central tunnel to Abbey Wood. Travelers heading for hotels in Central and Eastern London to/from Heathrow no longer need to change trains and stations with a long schlep at Paddington. Trains run London to/from terminals 2 and 3 about every 15 minutes and to/from terminals 4 and 5 every half-hour. Arriving U.S. travelers can use contactless AmEx and some MasterCards without having to buy tickets in advance; U.S. and Canadian Visa cards are still not accepted. On my recent visit, my AmEx worked flawlessly.
Still promised for this fall — but don't hold your breath: East Side Access in New York, making it easier for travelers to/from the East to reach JFK, and an expanded metro link at Istanbul's giant new airport to/from downtown, eliminating a tedious bus ride.
Improved rail access at airports can be a great boon for air travelers, particularly to/from remote airports. The downside is that most such services put you in the same vehicles as daily commuters use, with limited facilities for baggage. Still, the new Elizabeth line cars are pretty comfortable and roomy — much better than the old Paddington locals.