What are Blackout Dates?

G. Wiesen

Blackout dates are periods of time in which special offers, discounts, rewards or other promotional offers made by a business cannot be used. In the travel industry, this usually refers to times of the year in which a person may not use free travel rewards or reduced fare offers. These times will usually be indicated by the travel company. Some other companies that offer rewards or incentives that interconnect with travel, such as credit card companies that offer reward miles for airlines based on purchases made using the card, will also utilize these times to deny usage of such rewards. Blackout dates are also often used by other types of businesses, such as retail stores or offices, to indicate periods of time in which vacations cannot be requested by employees.

Within the airline industry, the specified days on which passengers cannot use reward points for travel are known as blackout dates.
Within the airline industry, the specified days on which passengers cannot use reward points for travel are known as blackout dates.

One of the most common uses of blackout dates is in ensuring that special rates or promotions offered by a travel company or airline cannot be used in a way that would cause the company to lose money. This is typically done around especially popular times for vacations, such as around major holidays. In the US, this includes the week of Thanksgiving and one or two weeks around Christmas and New Year's. An airline with these times listed as blackout dates would likely not allow passengers to use frequent flyer miles or similar offers for flights at these times.

Airline blackout dates may occur during summer holiday weekends.
Airline blackout dates may occur during summer holiday weekends.

The basic idea behind blackout dates is that such times of year already tend to be popular for travel, and further incentives are not necessary. In other words, people are already likely to be traveling so less effort is required to attract customers. Some deals may still be offered, usually to compete with other airlines or travel agencies, but promotional offers that are often valid throughout the rest of the year may be denied during blackout dates. Different airlines and travel companies can set different blackout periods, and some companies may actually eliminate these dates to attract customers.

Blackout dates can also be used internally by other companies. These dates are typically used to indicate periods of time in which employees cannot request time off or take vacations. Such dates are often similar to airline blackout dates and can usually coincide with major holidays and similar events. Many businesses will not necessarily have set dates for these times, and instead establish blackout periods to coincide with times that other employees have already requested off, to ensure an adequate number of employees for daily operations.

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Discussion Comments


It seems like a lot of the airlines are not as strict about blackout dates as they used to be.

When I first began using frequent flyer miles, it seemed like I was constantly running in to blackout date problems.

Over the last few years using these programs has become much easier and blackout dates aren't much of an issue. Maybe it depends on the airline or the frequent flyer program.

Any time I have tried to book a flight with a cheaper airline for one way tickets, it seems like there are always a lot of blackout date rules though. I have found that this isn't usually worth the hassle.


Blackout dates are something you want to be aware of when you take advantage of a special promotion.

I know that if you have a deluxe Disneyland annual pass, there are several blackout dates throughout the year.

Most of the Disneyland blackout dates are on weekends and busy holiday times such as Christmas and spring break.

They also offer another option that is a little more expensive but doesn't have any blackout dates.

If you live in the area and want to take advantage of a Disneyland annual pass I think it would be more enjoyable to go when the park isn't so busy anyway.

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