Holiday Travel Surcharge Increase

Holiday “Peak Travel Day” Surcharges are On the Rise

Anne McDermott | November 9, 2009 3:00 PM

In September, a number of airlines introduced a new airfare surcharge targeting “peak holiday travel” dates.

This new surcharge has some of the characteristics of an airline “fee” in that, unlike the sweeping surcharges of the past that helped airlines cover specific costs such as rising fuel prices – the new add-on specifically targets popular travel dates. Originally, the dates were limited to some of the busiest travel days of the 2009/2010 holiday season, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The cost of the surcharge was initially set at $10 one-way, and there was little initial passenger push-back, likely because it was only $10. However, that $10 one-way surcharge could boost the total travel bill for a family of four flying during the holidays by $80.

Then, in November, most of the airlines doubled the amount of the surcharge; it now costs travelers $20 per one-way flight – meaning that family of four would now pay an additional $160 for their airline tickets. The new surcharge has also been extended to specific days well into 2010 including several spring dates, making the term “holiday surcharge” something of a misnomer – but the name has stuck. The targeted surcharge dates now include the following:

  • Nov. 29, 30
  • Dec. 18, 19, 23, 26, 27
  • Jan. 2, 3
  • Mar. 14, 20, 21, 28
  • Apr. 11
  • May 28

The airlines are adamant that this new surcharge is not a “fee” but a “miscellaneous surcharge” and technically, they are correct – but the difference is likely to elude most passengers.

However, these surcharges, like airline fees, can be avoided by flying on alternate “non-peak” days. If you don’t want to pay a $20 bag fee, use a carryon; likewise, if you don’t want to pay an extra $40 roundtrip “holiday surcharge”, fly on Jan. 1 or 4, for example, instead of on Jan. 2 or 3. Passengers should see FareCompare’s When-to-Fly Calendars for other good dates to fly – and dates avoid.

At FareCompare you can quickly search flights by price, and immediately find the cheapest days and times to fly.

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Published: November 9, 2009