Understanding Cruise Line Airfare Offers
Understanding Cruise Line Airfare Offers
Understanding cruise line airfare offers is critical to the travel planning puzzle since the pandemic ended.
Imagine a complete shutdown of the entire cruise industry for nearly 2 1/2 years. That’s what happened as a consequence of the pandemic.
And as the travel industry couldn’t afford to keep their pre-pandemic payrolls, many people lost their jobs, were furloughed, and took early retirement offers.
And the restart of the industry has been a bumpy ride indeed.
As you know, we have all experienced full flights, lost luggage, absurdly long lines in some of the world’s busiest airports, and airline pilot and staffing shortages, all coupled with historic record-breaking new bookings after the pandemic.
And to our incredible frustration, we’re finding considerable exasperation from our clients as the airline industry works to get things back to normal.
So what has changed, and how can we help you reset your expectations?
Understanding the New Normal With Cruise Line Airfare Offers
- While the airline industry has improved from last year, the airline booking experience is still frustrating for the travel industry and its clients.
- Cruise lines negotiate contracts with various airlines to offer attractive rates for their customers. And we’re finding that the routes provided by the airlines are not what they were pre-pandemic. Further, with inflation hitting the cost of fuel and the airline’s employee expenses, we’re finding that the most direct routes overseas and back are not necessarily available anymore. What used to be available as a non-stop flight may now have one stop in the itinerary. And what used to have one stop in the itinerary now has two stops. So while the cruise line’s airfare may be less expensive, you can no longer assume that the routes offered will be the most direct flights. And while these direct flights will be available, they will generally include some form of upcharge if desired.
- Further, there is the issue of many cruise lines auto-generating a flight schedule for you 3-4 months prior to your departure. These computer-generated tickets can often include long layovers or extra stops that can be frustrating. Therefore, if you want to have some say in the flight schedule, you must generally pay some additional custom air fee to get your flights booked early and have some flexibility. We have found the sweet spot for booking International flights to be roughly 7-8 months before sailing.
- And if that isn’t enough, we’re constantly disappointed at the number of canceled flights after we’ve spent considerable time putting together a reasonable flight schedule.
So, What To Do?
- First of all, please don’t shoot the messenger. We’re just as frustrated as you are. Understand how this works in our new paradigm, and bring a healthy dose of patience.
- Decide upfront if you want to take advantage of the airline’s discounted airfare. If not, and if the air is included with your cruise, we can take an airline credit and help you book your flights outside the cruise line. Just know that the cost will likely be higher. And there are also likely to be booking fees outside the cruise line’s fares.
- And lastly, be sure to have your airline’s app on your phone in case of schedule changes. If changes occur, you can often rebook quickly without standing in a line of 300 angry people who don’t heed this advice.
I wrote this article because we were finding our clients bringing pre-pandemic expectations to the airline booking process. Covid-19 changed the world in many ways, and the travel industry is not immune. Please know that we feel your pain, we know what we are doing, and we’ll work hard to make this as painless for you as possible.
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Dave, Thanks for this GREAT article! Y’all have been great to work with on our Viking GET vacation. We are counting the days until we depart on our 50th anniversary. I am spreading the word about your business and how wonderful you are to work with in planning. Wishing you a fantastic 2nd quarter!
Thank you for the kind words, and we wish you a great adventure on your upcoming cruise. 🙂
Well said. It’s not the best decision anymore to just take the air included. You have more control and sometimes more options if you book yourself. Just remember to check your return flight while on the cruise because no one at the cruise line is checking it!
Sage advice, Lori. Thank you for sharing.
“We have found the sweet spot for booking International flights to be roughly 7-8 months before sailing.” Can you expand on this a bit? Is it because prices are lowest or options, seats, etc., are more plentiful? Some combination of the two? Or something else entirely? I ask because I’ve often seen a shorter timeframe quoted, on the order of 3-4 mo., as the “best time” to book an international flight. Thanks!
The travel industry is bustling. In today’s environment, if you wait to book airline tickets until 3-4 months out, most planes will already be nearly sold out. And this is particularly true if you want premium economy or business class seating. So, this has nothing to do with price but simply availability in today’s busy market.