Have you ever noticed that some flights are more expensive if you only spend a short amount of time at the destination? This is probably a result of airlines imposing a “minimum stay” requirement on their cheapest fares.
For example, say that you need to travel to New York for a short work trip. You’ll only be spending 3 days in New York and the Business Class airfare is $9,000. But if you stay for a whole week in New York, the airfare price drops to $7,000. In this case, the cheaper fare might come with a minimum stay requirement of 7 days. If you’re staying less than 7 days, you’ll have to pay for a more expensive fare class.
So, why do minimum stay requirements exist? In short, it’s a way for airlines to extract more money from business and corporate travellers that are prepared to pay a higher fare. Airlines know that people travelling for work are less price-sensitive. On the other hand, people going on holiday are likely to care much more about the price. So the airlines use price discrimination to charge the corporate travellers a higher fare.
The minimum stay requirements are one way that airlines can do this. The airlines assume that if somebody books a return ticket but stays only a short time at the destination, they’re probably travelling for work. But somebody staying a few weeks is more likely to be a leisure traveller.
The “Saturday Night” Rule
Rather than a specific number of days, some airlines attach a minimum stay requirement of “at least one Saturday night” to their cheaper fares. This is because business travellers typically return home to their families over the weekend. Airlines assume that somebody staying at their destination over the weekend is more likely there for a holiday.
Here’s a real example of a fare with a minimum stay requirement. These rules were attached to a recent Turkish Airlines sale fare:
In this example, there is a minimum stay of at least 3 days or at least one Saturday night. These terms are quite reasonable and almost everyone buying this fare will qualify – except perhaps for business travellers returning home after less than 3 days.
Airlines may also include a “maximum stay” requirement on some fare types. This is designed to make it harder for people to purchase cheaper tickets from overseas. For example, Garuda Indonesia’s Business Class fares from Hong Kong to Australia are about half the price of the same flights from Australia to Hong Kong. But the cheaper round-trip fares out of Hong Kong are only available if you spend a maximum of 30 days in Australia. Somebody that lives in Australia is likely to want to stay much longer. But for somebody based in Hong Kong, 30 days in Australia is probably sufficient.