If you have not purchased your plane tickets for Thanksgiving, you should do so now because finding cheap flights just got a lot harder. Sharp new increases in holiday airfare are now underway and in some cases, prices have risen as much as nearly 20 percent.
The bad news is, we expect the cost of plane tickets to continue to rise as we move closer to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Prices Up Sharply on Cross-Country Routes
Based on FareCompare’s extensive database of current and historical airfare, we noted particularly steep price increases on flights from Los Angeles to New York when we compared 2010 prices with this year’s airfare costs.
The prices below were available Oct. 12 of each year.
Virgin America: Price up 19%
- 2010/2011 prices: $610, $728
United/Continental: Prices up 17%
- 2010/2011 prices: $698, $816
American: Prices up 14%
- 2010/2011 prices: $623, $712
JetBlue: Prices up 14%
- 2010/2011 prices: $543, $618
Delta: Prices up 13%
- 2010/2011 prices: $648, $729
Notice that despite similar increases percentage-wise, there is still a wide range of pricing, with a $200 gap between the highest and lowest airfare, so smart shoppers can still save money. Delays, however, may eat up that savings gap.
See FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney talk Thanksgiving airfare on the CBS Evening News:
Capacity Cuts Help Spike Holiday Airfare
One of the reasons for the current prices hikes is that Thanksgiving is a money-maker for the airlines; they know many of us will fly no matter what the cost (up to a point, anyway).
However, the airlines’ ongoing efforts at capacity cutting are also responsible for lifting prices as the airline toss out thousands of seats to ensure as close to 100 percent occupancy as possible; this helps keeps demand up and prices relatively high. Today in the airline industry, it’s all about survive, contract, consolidate, merge and cut back. Only a couple of airlines, Southwest and US Airways, are actually adding seats.
Procrastinators Probably Won’t Find Cheap Flights
Procrastination is not going to help bargain hunters this year, because we don’t expect to see anything much in the way of bargains. Again, it goes back to those capacity cuts. When there are no empty seats, there is no reason for airlines to discount.
Remember, the longer you delay buying airfare, the higher the price. Expect to add an extra $5 to your round-trip airfare for each day you procrastinate on your purchase. Best advice for holiday shoppers: get your plane tickets now.