Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holiday airfares climb higher

Many fliers will pay more — sometimes half as much more — for airline tickets this holiday season.
On some routes, fares are up to 59 percent higher than last year for travel before Thanksgiving and up to 40 percent higher before Christmas, according to an analysis by travel site FareCompare.com.

"Domestic airfares hit bottom in May 2009, were relatively low for Thanksgiving last year and now have crept up," says Rick Seaney, president of FareCompare.com.

The reason: Consumers who stopped flying during the recession are taking to the air, and airlines have reduced the number of seats available in the last few years to cut costs, Seaney says.

Overall, FareCompare says, domestic airfares are up an average of 17 percent for travel late this month, late December and early January over a year ago. That analysis was of fares among 50 cities. Many popular routes are costlier to fly, Seaney says.

Fares for popular flights analyzed

At USA TODAY 's request, FareCompare analyzed the cheapest nonstop coach fares on 10 popular domestic routes connecting to such major hubs as Atlanta,
Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. The fares were valid Nov. 1 for flights departing one day before Thanksgiving and two days before Christmas.

On Nov. 1, the cheapest nonstop, round-trip ticket between Boston and Minneapolis was $859 for a Nov. 24 departure and a Nov. 28 return. That price on Delta Air Lines was 59 percent more expensive than for the same days last year.

It was also 59 percent more expensive on Nov. 1 to fly between Philadelphia and Orlando, departing Nov. 24 and returning Nov. 28. US Airways and AirTran Airways were charging $522 for the cheapest nonstop ticket, compared with $328 last year.

For all 10 routes analyzed by FareCompare.com, the cheapest nonstop, round-trip ticket for Thanksgiving travel was higher than last year. The price was at least 13 percent more on nine routes.

Ticket prices for Christmas travel also are more expensive on all 10 routes.

Orbitz, the giant online travel agent, also reports more expensive holiday fares. It analyzed three major routes — New York-Los Angeles, New York-San Francisco and Chicago-San Francisco — and found average airfares for tickets booked through Oct. 1 were up to 30 percent higher for travel during the upcoming Christmas and New Year's season.

Orbitz says the busiest days to fly during the Christmas season will be Dec. 23 and Dec. 26, and the lightest days will be Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

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