Every time I do a radio interview or TV interview these days, I seem to get the same question — when is the best time to buy holiday airline tickets? My answer, “Buy them as soon as you see a price you like; prices aren’t going to be coming down and they most likely will be going up.”
Every travel respectable expert seems to agree with me and and booking trends aren’t pointing to any drops in airfares soon.
Rick Seaney from FareCompare.com tells travelers in a recent email that his indicators show airfares are going in only one direction, up.
There is no question that prices are rising sharply; according to FareCompare’s extensive database of current and historical airfare, Thanksgiving airline ticket prices have jumped close to 20% on some airline routes this year, compared with 2010 prices.
The reasons behind this are threefold: jet fuel prices are remaining stubbornly high even as gas prices go down; airlines have been cutting seat capacity over the last three or four years, with even more cuts in the last half of this year; plus, demand for seats is relatively good, defying the economic headlines. And just this week, I detected the second of back-to-back airfare hike attempts, although the second of these eventually collapsed.
Priceline, on the other hand, in a release this week, sees prices holding steady and outlines some of the “best days to fly.”
Thanksgiving airfares for the past month are up 6% over same period last year. Christmas airfares are up 3%. All percentages are based on airfares booked by priceline customers.
A Priceline spokesman added that airfares may not be rising dramatically because the airlines are expecting to “make additional money with many passengers on baggage fees, seat upgrades, ticket changes, blanket/pillow rentals, etc.”
Priceline’s list of the best days to fly:
•The most affordable days to fly over the Thanksgiving holiday are November 19, 20, 21, 22, 24 (Thanksgiving Day), 25, 29 and 30.
•The most affordable days to fly over the Christmas holiday are December 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28 and 31.
I guess my advice still holds. If you find a fare that seems fair and friendly to your budget, buy now. Don’t wait expecting bargains to come in the future as the holidays get closer.