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Capacity Cuts

Squeezing every last dollar out of the traveling public

Sep 17, 2008

While still an unfamiliar term to most, travelers will soon face the effects of the airline industry's latest way of trying to make money: capacity cuts. This is when an airline cuts the number of daily flights on a route or replaces a big plane with a smaller one, thereby reducing the number of available seats, which then affects travelers and their wallets in a myriad of different ways.

In the recent report "Five Ways Airline Capacity Cuts Will Affect You," SmarterTravel, an unbiased travel advice website, lists the ways capacity cuts will impact consumer travel in the coming months and offers strategies to lessen the inconvenience of those cuts.

"As expected, airlines are looking for ways to recoup costs, though often
at the traveler's expense," said Anne Banas, executive editor of
SmarterTravel. "By cutting capacity, flights will be booked solid, if not
overbooked, making an inexpensive flight impossible to come by. Frequent
flyers should also worry about using their miles, as award seats on most
flights will disappear."

So what else do capacity cuts really mean for travelers? According to
SmarterTravel, travelers can expect the following:

-- Bye-Bye Options. Airlines are planning to cut capacity anywhere from 5
to 16 percent by the fourth quarter, according to an Associated Press report.
Fewer seats mean higher demand, which then means fewer travel deals,
especially during the busy holiday season. If you are planning to travel for
Thanksgiving or the December holidays, book soon for the best prices.

-- Frequent Schedule Changes. The reduction of flights causes a ripple
effect throughout the airlines' schedules, and any flights you may have booked
in advance will likely be affected by the time you fly. Double-check several
days in advance of your flight to make sure you know exactly what your trip

-- Standby No More. If planes continue to fly full this autumn, free seats
will be few and far between. Flying standby will be a riskier proposition, so
don't rely on a seat opening up on your preferred flight. Better to change
your flight in advance if you need to be somewhere at a specific time.

-- The Frequent Flyer Dilemma. Frequent flyer award tickets are another
casualty of capacity cuts, and you should be prepared to pay full price for
air travel in the near future.

Travelers do have some ways to combat these issues. For instance, if
you're expecting to take a trip this fall or winter, book your flights soon.
Booking in advance is particularly important if you're flying on a popular
route. Even if your airline changes your schedule, you'll at least be
guaranteed a seat. If you plan to use a frequent flyer award ticket, follow
the same advice and begin looking well ahead of time. Airlines release their
schedules up to 330 days in advance, so get a jump start on next year's
vacation planning this year for the best chance in finding an open seat.
The complete report can be found at

Squeezing every last dollar out of the traveling public

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