Holiday Travel and Airfare Hikes

Earlier today, FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney was a guest on KGO in San Francisco, analyzing the latest airfare increases and offering advice for holiday travelers.

Here are some of the highlights:

KGO: You said airfares were going to go up and they did, and now, another airfare hike?

Rick Seaney: Yeah, it’s pretty scary. Back-to-back airfare hikes on two successive weeks, airlines raising prices up to $10 each week, so that added at least $20 [to holiday ticket prices].

I talk to Editor Anne McDermott about why she should have bought her tickets already.

See more of the details on the 18th airfare hike attempt of the year

Rick Seaney: You have three things that are going on right now. You have jet fuel prices that are remaining stubbornly high even as gas prices go down. You have airlines cutting down lots of seats over the last three or four years, more even, in the last half of the year. And really, demand seems to be fine, defying the economic headlines right now. Demand looks really good, especially for the holidays.

KGO: This is the what, the 18th attempted airfare hike of the year?

Rick Seaney: Yeah, and about half of them have been successful. That means that since the beginning of the year, you’re paying up to $80 more round-trip for your ticket than you were paying on January 1.

KGO: Are all airlines joining in on the price hike?

Rick Seaney: Right now, you have the four legacy airlines – American, Delta, United/Continental and US Airways – all increasing, and Alaska, too. But so far, Southwest and JetBlue haven’t matched yet so we’ll see later in the day today [if they match]. If they don’t match, we could see some of the airlines rolling back their prices, so if I was going to buy tickets, I’d definitely be looking later this afternoon.

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KGO: So how do holiday travelers find the deals?

Rick Seaney: If you’re looking at the holidays, you’re really looking at getting a “better bad deal.” There are not great deals, but if you can avoid the Wednesday before and Sunday/Monday after Thanksgiving, you’re going to save yourself at least 100 bucks, as those are the busiest days [Editor’s note: busiest and most expensive days to travel]. Your best bets are traveling the Tuesday before and Saturday after Thanksgiving, and also avoid the two Mondays after Christmas and New Year’s.

If you’re traveling for the first two weeks in December or the first six weeks in January/February, [there are] absolutely great deals. It’s a huge dichotomy, $600 maybe for a ticket for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and that same ticket would be $150 during the other times.

KGO: What about actually flying on the holiday itself?

Rick Seaney: Those actually are the cheapest days to fly and the least busy; in my particular case, my father-in-law, who’s 85, flies to see us on Thanksgiving Day, not because of the price, although the price is so cheap; he just hates the hustle and bustle at the airport so he loves flying on the holiday when it’s pretty much empty.

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Published: October 25, 2011