A good friend from college periodically forwards me Virgin America flash sales.
“For the next 96 hours, Virgin America is reducing nationwide fares from San Francisco to as low as $39 each way,” read the first line of one email I received recently.
Of course, the ticket I’d be buying would be JFK to SFO for $139 one-way, but it’s the same concept. Virgin is pretending to offer me something special for a limited time, which is just one of the many flash sale gimmicks out there.
Jet Blue went full throttle with its own set of flash sales this summer, and Experian.com‘s senior director of merchandising told ABC News that these “limited time only” sales won’t be disappearing any time soon. (Retail monsters like Disney, McDonald’s, and Warner Bros. love the strategy, too.)
People want any deal they can get, especially in these dour economic times, so they’re vulnerable to these “limited time” offers, the Experian executive said.
I was one of those people, the sucker I was, but this time I knew better and tested my suspicions.
Roundtrip on Virgin from JFK to SFO from Thursday, Jan. 27 through Monday, the 30th comes to $299, but on Orbitz, I found the same flight on United comes to—drum roll—$299.
I told my friend, who thought Virgin might still offer a deal for Martin Luther King weekend. So this time I tried the same airports and switched the dates to Jan. 13 though the 16th. Both Virgin and Delta are offering direct flights for a total of $339, including taxes and fees. That’s not much of a “deal”—or cause for panic.
Still, if you really like Virgin, or airlines that send you flash sales, you might want to go ahead and book. The “limited time sales” are generally not any worse than what the general market offers. Just don’t think you have to act like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible with your 96 hours.