Last month, several airlines, including United and Delta, offered deeply discounted business class tickets from many U.S. cities to Europe. In a lot of cases, the business class fares — flat seats and all — were cheaper than coach. I know this in part because I grabbed one for my honeymoon this summer.
But the airlines didn’t advertise these discount fares. You either had to get lucky — maybe you were just searching that day — or had to learn about it from a friend. From what I could tell, these fare sales were available twice, for about one day each. If you thought too much about buying, the tickets disappeared.
Why weren’t these flights advertised? Joe Brancatelli, the respected business travel columnist, has the answer. He wrote a fascinating story on these flash sales. Here’s what one airline executive told him:
“Our legal team claims you must have at least 10 percent [of seats] available at the advertised price and you can’t change fares or terms after the promotion starts,” is how one airline marketing executive explained it to me. “Now we dump what we deem appropriate into the system and don’t talk about it. Then we can pull inventory or change restrictions without repercussions. It makes the lawyers happy.”