Where are airfares going this holiday season? Experts say up. Bookings say flat.

by Charlie Leocha on November 2, 2011


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.

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  • Bodega

    If you are just now getting to buying your ticket for holiday travel, you have waited too long.  You are getting space on flights that may have had lower fares awhile back, but now you are having to book in higher classes of service in coach because that is all that is left.  There is more to booking than you see online.

  • Frank

    Availability is KEY too.  When I worked Reservations many years ago.  I had Travel Agents calling in Spring, early summer to book—————> the Holiday.  To some destinations, they went quickly!  Wait too long and you wont be going by AIR.

  • wendy

    Is THAT all there is on the x-ray issue for the full body scanner?  My doc has said NO, and wrote an RX to that effect, as I have a pacemaker, and OTHER implants!.  It really pisses the ” FEMALE ASSIST” TSA worker off!/  wendy

  • wendy

    Is THAT all there is on the x-ray issue for the full body scanner?  My doc has said NO, and wrote an RX to that effect, as I have a pacemaker, and OTHER implants!.  It really pisses the ” FEMALE ASSIST” TSA worker off!/  wendy

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  • http://www.flylink.ca/airlines/us_airways.asp us airways flights

    The best time to get your tickets:- Book tickets as soon as the vacation is planned. the price you get today is the best buy price because, it always hikes, never noticed airfare going down in so many years of travel. Availability is the major issue.

  • Bodega

    Not at all correct.  My airfare just dropped over $225 per person that I priced last week over yesterday for a trip we are planning next spring. A sale was posted earlier this week for the departure city I need to the destination city we need to get to.  You need to know the average past fares to know if what you see is a good fare.  Holiday fares are a whole other ball game.  Some years WN never offered any sale fare in certain markets over Thanksgiving and other years they have.  Fares are based on classes of service and what that sale fare class of service was today, can change tonight.

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