Holiday travel deals for students
Airlines and hotels are slashing prices for students planning holiday travel.
A host of new -- and hard-to-find -- airfare deals could make flying Junior home for Thanksgiving cheaper this year, courtesy of an airline industry desperate for passengers. And in some cases, you don't even need to be a full-time student to take advantage of the discounts.
With domestic travel still below pre-recession levels, according to the U.S. Travel Association, travel companies are looking to college students (or their parents) to fill the empty seats. Post continues after video.
What's in it for the them? Full flights are always more profitable than those with empty seats, even at fire sale prices. The companies hope good deals today will create repeat customers tomorrow, says Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's Tisch Center, who tracks hospitality industry trends.
To get many of these deals, students need to join STA Travel or Student Advantage, companies that specialize in student discounts. But the membership fee -- about $22 per year for either -- pays for itself quickly. In most cases, students have to show a valid student ID and proof of course registration for the current semester to join and get these deals. Parents, that doesn't mean you're off the hook, but you can use your son or daughter's membership number to pay for the tickets.
Better yet, in most cases there are no blackout dates. Among the best offers:
- StudentUniverse.com is selling plane tickets up to 25% off airline rates on more than 30 carriers, including Continental, Delta and US Airways. (There is a $6 fee with each booking.) A flight from Miami to London that departs on Nov. 22 and returns on Nov. 29, for example, is priced at $553, a savings of $218.
- JetBlue is offering an 11% discount on bookings through March on all its routes for full-time college students with STA's International Student Identity Card, which costs $22.
- Lufthansa Airlines' GenerationFly program discounts airfare on flights to more than 470 foreign destinations, including Europe and Asia. New York-to-London roundtrip airfare is among the best deals, just $211 with GenerationFly, compared with $900 retail. Even better news: You can be any type of student to qualify: full-time, part-time, grad or undergrad. That means that, say, a part-time M.B.A. student taking one or two night classes per semester can also get in on this deal. You'll need to present a valid and current student ID at check-in. Don't try to game the system, you could be asked to pay up to the cost of the full retail fare if you don't have an ID. Register through the program's site; you'll need to use a valid college e-mail address.
- On AirTran Airways, anyone 18 to 22 years old -- student or not -- is eligible for the airline's cheap-o standby tickets. Young travelers must show up two hours or more before a flight departs, and if there are seats available, AirTran will sell them a ticket for $49 to $99 one way. (The more expensive tickets include flights to San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas.) The process is the same on the way home. One catch: There are some blackout dates: Nov. 24, 27-29 and Dec. 15-31.
Of course, there's always a risk that all seats on AirTran's flights will be booked. A company spokeswoman suggests students try to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, when flights are less full. For Thanksgiving, she suggests showing up on the Sunday or Monday prior, Nov. 21 or 22.
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