Travelling on business at Christmas & New Year: the ups and downs

By John Walton, December 3 2012
Travelling on business at Christmas & New Year: the ups and downs

Business travellers booking flights in the busy high season in late December and early January will often see extra flights and larger planse on airline's Christmas and New Year schedules.

As with any busy time of year, there are upsides and downsides to travelling during the holiday period, but there are a few sneaky airline tricks -- and nifty traveller hacks -- to watch out for, so it's time for the annual Australian Business Traveller advice for travelling on business at this time of year.

The upside: get home faster or plan a secret Santa stopover

Extra holiday flights and larger planes can mean that your usual business travel route can become more convenient.

When airlines use larger planes, there's often more last-minute space too -- especially in business class meaning that you have the option of faster and more convenient routings for your last-minute trip and can avoid flying out of your way simply because there are no seats left on the best flights.

When there are extra flights, you may be able to shave hours off your total journey time by taking a later flight or making an earlier connection.

(Alternatively, you might be able to cram in a secret shopping trip in layover shopping paradises like Singapore or Dubai -- tax free if you claim back the local equivalent of GST!)

So even if you fly a route frequently and have a usual preferred flight, take an extra look at the flight options you're presented with when booking.

The downside: wait, where's that flat bed gone?

In addition to more expensive fares you already know about, certain airlines use their higher-density -- and less comfortable -- regional configuration planes instead of the usual long-haul layouts. For them, it means they can cram more people in for the same (or even higher) fares.

But for you, it means the business class flat-bed you paid top dollar for might be quietly swapped for a 1980s-style recliner that isn't worth half the price.

If it's a late change, your carefully picked seat reservation might also disappear, so make sure you keep an eye out for email from the airline.

But the airline is technically under no obligation to tell you about what would be a bait and switch in any other industry. However, you might have a leg to stand on if you feel that the airline has misrepresented what you've been sold.

At the very least, you should receive some frequent flyer points if you've been particularly hard done by. You could reasonably ask for around half the points needed to upgrade to business class if your business seat was really dreadful.

Our advice: check the type of plane scheduled for your flight. Read emails from the airline carefully, especially the ones that have to do with flight timings. You should be able to change your flight without penalty if the schedule shifts significantly. 

And if you were expecting a flat bed and you ended up with something worse, complain politely to the head crew person on board (Purser, Inflight Supervisor, etc) asking them to pass on your complaint and write a sternly worded email to the airline following it up.

Keep up with the very latest in business travel on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

The worst thing is the number of crew travelling in what would be otherwise empty J class cabins... The planes are full in Y so crew with tickets home to see their family get J class tickets, and the operating crew tend to be far more interested in sitting around and chatting with their friends than getting me my coffee...


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

I always thought it would be cool to fly on Christmas Day, it must be a pretty fun 'vibe' in the cabin, even at the lounge beforehand!

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

I'm a really big fan of flying on Christmas Day.

Fares are generally pretty low, staff are in funny hats (see the Emirates bloke in the picture at the top, which I snapped AKL-MEL last Christmas) and lounges are either (or both) empty and festive.

03 Dec 2012

Total posts 4

If you're flying out of the Qantas domestic terminal in Sydney on Christmas Eve make sure you check the departure screens - the last flight of the day is a special one!

11 Jan 2012

Total posts 20

Im doing LHR-FRA-SIN-SYD in J between Xmas Eve and Boxing Day - should be an interesting experience. Intrigued as to what the food options will be. Will they be loading a few cartons of turkey, ham and prawns on at Frankfurt?

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Glühwein for all passengers, I'd hope...


22 Mar 2012

Total posts 200

These problems don't seem half as bad as JAL serving KFC as part of their festive season meals..... yuck!

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

You're not wrong there. Yuck!

QantasFF Platinum

16 Feb 2012

Total posts 153

Last year I was on the Qantas A380 LAX-MEL on Christmas (from memory it actually left in the early minutes of 26th Dec!)  The crew were extremely accomodating and we were easily upgraded and there were spare seats. They came around with extra small gifts and we really appreciated the extra service! (and Christmas Cognac ;)

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