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.
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.
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.