3 Reasons Why Not to Procrastinate on Holiday Airfare

If you are one of those travelers who think they have plenty of time to buy plane tickets for the holidays, I have two words for you: tick tock.

That’s the sound of the clock running down as the price of airfare creeps up.

The bottom line: Buy as soon as possible. Procrastination is not your friend this year. We anticipate few if any last-minute bargains and for those of you who must travel on Thanksgiving or Christmas, any delay could mean there will not be a seat for you at any price.

Listen to the seeming contradiction: fewer flyers yet planes will be packed!  

Also see the 4 Biggest Mistakes of Holiday Airfare Shoppers

3 Reasons Why Holiday Airfare Shoppers Must Not Delay

1. Airfares are Rising

In little more than two weeks, we have seen U.S. airlines launch three separate airfare hikes. The first was a success, the second fell apart and the current one is still underway. The hikes have been in the $4-$10 round-trip range, but add that on top of normal high holiday airfare prices, plus all the other successful hikes we’ve seen this past year and you have got a recipe for pricey plane tickets.

Minor bright spot: The first couple of weeks of December can be among the cheapest of the year, but if you are traveling during the holidays, either Thanksgiving or Christmas, the time to buy is now (and when you’re done shopping, keep reading below).

Excellent strategies for getting the best holiday deals available

2. Airlines Continue to Cut Seats

Cutting capacity has been a watchword for the airlines this year, and we are seeing no slowdown with the holidays coming up. In fact, although the airline lobbying group, Air Transport Association is forecasting that 2 percent fewer passengers at Thanksgiving time than flew during last year’s holiday period, airlines have been on a capacity cutting spree, dropping thousands of seats so planes are likely to be full or near full.

What this means for holiday travelers: wait too long and you may not find a seat at all.

3. Beware Lengthy Advance Purchase Requirements

True, there are a few deals here and there for holiday flights, particularly on those fringe dates outside the most popular days to fly, but there’s a catch: many of these deals require a 21-day advance purchase. Again, wait too long and you may not be able to get the deals when you need it most.

See 6 great tips for holiday travel with kids (including best bribes!)

Final thought: Jet fuel prices remain stubbornly high, so there’s no incentive for the airlines to discount on that score. And face it, the airlines know you want to fly during the holidays, and they will do their best to squeeze every last cent out of you. Do not look for cheap flights this holiday season, but do check prices here at FareCompare, and we will get you the very best deal possible.

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Published: November 3, 2011