Some airline travelers are in for a rude awakening this holiday season. Last year, it was easy to find a deal on cheap tickets. But there will be 3.4 percent fewer airline seats this holiday season compared to last year and that’s beginning to push fares sharply higher.
Hoping to fly to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving? Or head to a beach or the ski slopes for Christmas? You might be in for a more expensive ride if you don’t book soon.
“Absolutely don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute. You are going to be sitting there buying an $800 ticket and you’re not going to be happy about it,” said Rick Seaney with FareCompare.com
Last fall, with the economy in a tail spin, fares actually dropped after Thanksgiving but not this year.
“The writing is on the wall, and they are going up, they are going to continue to go up as we get closer to the holiday,” said Genevieve Shaw Brown, Senior Editor with Travelocity.
Want to fly from Washington D.C. to Chicago for Thanksgiving on United Airlines? You’ll pay $563. A month ago it was $285.
Continental from Newark to San Francisco is now $869 compared to $504 if you booked in late September.
Airlines are able to raise fares because they’ve slashed flights and the number of available seats.
Take day before Thanksgiving – an extremely busy travel day – there are 80,000 fewer seats this year to the 50 busiest cities.
Passengers need to keep a sharp eye not just on fares, but on those airline fees, from baggage charges to the first ever holiday surcharge on certain flights.
Travel agents warn even what seems like a bargain ticket may not be such a bargain.
“If you pick one airline and it is $25 less by the time you get on the aircraft they could hit you up for $25, $50 or $75 In baggage fees, miscellaneous fees and you wind up paying more,” said Mike MacNair, CEO of MacNair Travel Management.
There are still bargains if you’re willing to be flexible and willing to hop on a flight even on Thanksgiving or Christmas.