Ever wondered why you can’t buy a flight more than a year in advance? There are a couple of reasons for this.
Airlines are constantly managing their risk. When you buy a ticket, it’s a contract between you and the airline. You agree to pay X and they agree to take you from A to B. If they take bookings too far in advance and something significant changes like oil prices, demand for a particular destination or availability of their own staff/aircraft then they are at risk of breaking the contract. Even if an airline decides not to operate a particular route, their exposure remains in place and they still have to get you to your destination (somehow). Making good on the contract may well cost them more than what they charged you, to begin with. Of course, that’s the cost of doing business sometimes. But the whole game for them is about risk management.
GDS stands for Global Distribution System. There are three big ones – Amadeus, Sabre & Travelport – among others. These archaic systems allowed airlines to globally distribute their inventory to travel agents before the age of the internet. Because they’re quite old, one of the previous limitations some of these systems had was when you do a flight search, the search query only contains day and month, not year. So that created a limitation that has become a normally accepted practice for decades. This is proving less of a technical issue nowadays, but this reason contributed to these rules.
The further in advance customers are allowed to book, the more chance customers themselves have a change of plans. How many of us really know what we’re doing more than a few months in advance? Allowing bookings past a year in advance means there’s a high chance there could be significant admin work to be done more than what’s normal. The potential revenue the airline could stand to make would get wiped out by the extra work.
The two large premium carriers in the UK are British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. BA usually allows you to book 355 days in advance and for Virgin, it’s about 330 days. They can adjust this slightly, usually by a factor of days. But 11 months in advance is roughly the norm for most large full-service carriers.
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