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24 Nov 2020

Are Black Friday holiday deals really worth booking?

Our research helps you find the lowest prices for holidays and flights in 2021 and beyond
couple in an airport with suitcases

The majority of Black Friday flight and holiday deals we looked at last year went down in price within weeks.

Despite the pandemic we can expect more claims of major savings from airlines and travel companies on this year's Black Friday - 27 November.

But we looked at 42 flight and holiday offers on Black Friday 2019, two weeks later, and then again in January 2020. More than half of the 'deals' offered were more expensive than the prices available for identical flights and holidays within a matter of weeks.

Even when prices were cheapest at the end of November you'd only have saved a few pounds in many cases.

For five of the bookings we looked at, Black Friday was not only worse than during the January sales period, it was more expensive than a normal day in December.

As many of those flights and holidays were later cancelled anyway, because of the pandemic, our research also demonstrates the importance of looking beyond headline prices. People who chose to book with better holiday providers or airlines were much more likely to be refunded promptly.

Find more unbiased advice on travel and coronavirus, award-winning investigations and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel

Ryanair Black Friday customers better off waiting?

This year Ryanair has been running 'a whole month of Black Friday' deals on Fridays during November. But last year four of the seven flights we looked at were cheaper later on.

A flight to Corfu cost £32.99 on Black Friday, but in December it was a couple of pounds less and in January the price was just £12.99 - a saving of £20.

The three Ryanair flights, marketed under the Black Friday banner last year, that were cheaper, offered savings of less than £5.

British Airways Black Friday customers made small savings

For British Airways flights, the Black Friday price was the best available on four of the six routes we checked. However, the saving was never more than £100.

Tui Black Friday customers may find January sales a better option

This year is unlike any other for holidays because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, if last year's any guide, there may be better deals available in January than in November. Six out of nine Tui holidays were cheaper in January.

For one Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Barbados, you would have saved £121 if you'd waited until the turn of the year to book.

Beware even the best Black Friday deals

There are always some genuinely good deals on Black Friday. Last year we found two Virgin Holidays trips that seemed to offer impressive savings. One to a beach resort in Jamaica saved £125 per person compared with the next-cheapest price. Another, to Orlando in Florida, saved an impressive £311 per person.

However, given Virgin was among companies that treated customers poorly during the pandemic, this is another reminder that price isn't the only factor when choosing a holiday. It was investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for its handling of refunds. See our advice on the best companies to book with.

How to get the best deals for holidays and flights in 2021 and 2022

  • Don't book in December unless you're sure it's a bargain From our research it seems clear that, in normal times, booking in mid-December is rarely a good idea. Only 7% of holidays we looked at then had the cheapest price compared with Black Friday or the first week of January. January had the biggest savings overall, so unless you see an exceptional bargain from a decent company this November, we'd be inclined to wait until the New Year sales.
  • Set up a price alert To know whether you're getting a bargain, you need to know what the normal price is. Flight aggregators such as Skyscanner allow you to choose the dates and destination of your trip so you can be emailed an alert when the price falls or rises.
  • Avoid anything that seems too good to be true Online travel agents such as eDreams, Gotogate and Kiwi.com sometimes sell flights more cheaply than the airlines themselves. As you'd expect, however, there's a catch. If anything goes wrong, booking through an agent can make the process of getting a refund much more complicated. Agents also add their own surcharges to extras such as choosing a seat or checking luggage into the hold.
  • Look for the best flexible booking policies for holidays and flights. With the situation around Covid changing rapidly, some airlines and travel companies will charge you much more than others to change your itinerary.
  • Compare package prices with flight-only deals With package holidays you have greater protection from the Package Travel Regulations and Atol if something goes wrong. In some cases booking a flight and a hotel together may not be significantly more expensive than a flight on its own. Which? found that eight of the 10 packages we looked at were cheaper than booking the equivalent hotel and flight separately.