Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Is our refusal to book flights in advance just a fear of commitment?

Global online travel company Cleartrip released statistics showing that the majority of UAE travellers book flights fewer than eight days ahead of travel

More travellers are booking last minute flights on mobile devices, according to Cleartrip. 
More travellers are booking last minute flights on mobile devices, according to Cleartrip. 

Despite the fact that I show up early for social and work engagements, I find it very difficult to book a flight much in advance of my departure date. My mum, who I blame for my innate sense of on-the-ground punctuality in the first place, finds this trait very stressful and, until recently, made me feel as though the behaviour was unusual. Now, I realise it’s not at all. In fact, it’s very common.

A couple of weeks ago, global online travel company Cleartrip released statistics showing that the majority of UAE travellers book flights fewer than eight days ahead of travel. Same-day purchases are on the rise, too, as last-minute reservations accounted for 3 per cent of all bookings from across the Gulf on Cleartrip in the first half of 2019.

Granted, for long-haul travel, leaving it down to just eight days is cutting it a bit too fine, even for me, but reading this did get me thinking: where does this blasé approach to border-­hopping come from? I thought perhaps it might be a UAE thing, as the majority of the population is made up of people who have moved here from elsewhere and who may often fly home at the drop of a hat. And, considering our proximity to both the West and the rest of Asia, it would make sense that we’re not averse to spontaneous jet-setting around here.

But then I read a report from 2016 by travel booking website Expedia, which said: “We see a healthy appetite among all consumers for the spontaneous trip, but this is particularly strong among millennials. Already, over one in three agree that they ‘often make holiday plans at the last minute’ – compared to only one in four of older consumers, despite all associated costs with last-minute booking.”

One of Expedia’s clients, UK resident Carmen, explains in the report why she lives life on the edge: “Many of my holiday decisions have been spur of the moment as a result of chatting to friends about their past holidays (and wanting to do the same) or fantasising about what I could be doing and then going online to see if it can be done,” she says. “Once I had agreed to it (during a moment of boredom and procrastination) it was all booked within 48 hours.”

Of course, this kind of behaviour depends on what funds are available, how easy international travel is from where you live, and other such social factors, but the uptick in last-minute bookings does seem to coincide with the advent of digital tools. We can also factor in decreasing costs, an increase in options and a generally more liberal outlook across the board. Access to more information about the world and its hidden wonders via the internet must also be a major contributor.

Many of my holiday decisions have been spur of the moment as a result of chatting to friends about their past holidays (and wanting to do the same) or fantasising about what I could be doing and then going online to see if it can be done.

Carmen

While my consideration of this statistic sent me down a rabbithole of internet research, it also got me thinking about why I, personally, choose to delay booking. I’m technically a millennial, but I came of age as the internet did, so printed maps and booking through travel agents months in advance was how we did things back then. I certainly appreciate the ease with which we can book our flights and hotels these days, but I ultimately believe my reluctance to plan ahead has more to do with a fear of commitment than it does anything else.

Even though the dates of annual leave I have booked (which I actually do well in advance) aren’t going to change, and the trips I go on are rarely dreamt up in the spur of the moment, I like to have a bit of room to manoeuvre, just in case. And, even though booking last minute costs more, and I could buy a flexible ticket for a fairly minimal fee instead, as more and more websites make it easier for me to book later and later, I can’t see me changing this behaviour any time soon. But you better believe I’ll always be at the airport at least three hours early.

Updated: October 3, 2019 06:54 PM

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