The airline is considering extending its booking window for flights to Florida from early next year.
Lee Haslett, vice president leisure sales, hinted at the plans yesterday, speaking on the UK Market Update panel at Florida Fest, a five-day event hosted by TTG Media.
Currently bookings can be made 365 days in advance of travel, with the airline planning to restart Orlando flights from Heathrow and Manchester from December 10, but, Haslett said: “We are looking at whether there are opportunities for us in the trade to be able to provide longer, further out booking given that we are seeing that as a constant trend.”
As things stand, Haslett suggested there could be more availability for Easter and summer 2021 this January than ever before, which may result in a trend of late bookings for 2021 as those dates would usually be sold out by the turn of the year.
Overall, the panel, also including Kerry Gallagher, head of trade sales and marketing, dnata Travel B2B Europe and DoSomethingDifferent.com’s head of trade sales and marketing, Annabel Cove, agreed that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to earlier booking patterns.
Gallagher said while there may be an "appetite to wait until the last minute to secure a deal", social distancing measures in hotels and at attractions means there will be fewer available; a good reason to secure bookings as early as possible.
Cove added that with attractions limiting capacity due to social distancing measures, pre-booking attractions would become “more of a habit”.
Yet there might be a shift in late bookings, as customers need the certainty that they can travel.
However customers do seem to be increasingly looking for higher end options.
Haslett said Virgin Atlantic was seeing more customers looking at booking Upper Class travel, which will be “great value” thanks to new aircraft with larger Upper Class capacity flying the route.
Gallagher added that rebooking trends showed a longer than average length of stay and upgrades in both cabin class and room type.
The panellists also identified twin-centre holidays as a key opportunity for the trade.
Haslett said customers were increasingly keen to visit the beaches for a week and then spend a few days in a theme park.
Gallagher agreed, saying Gold Medal had introduced new twin-centres and villa product in both Orlando and other regions such as the beaches.