Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Delta Airlines Airbus A330-323E landing on r... Warning: A Foul Outlook for Holiday Airfares
SEPTEMBER 26, 2010
Edited by

It's not even Halloween yet, but discount airlines may just be the Grinch for holiday travelers this year.

Virgin America, jetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways are pricing some markets significantly higher than their bigger, typically more-expensive competitors, expecting robust demand and limited airline capacity will lead to full planes at full fares.

And despite the struggling economy, airline executives seem to think that all the Whos down in Whoville will buy tickets regardless of price.

Demand for air travel has increased recently, and airlines haven't added much capacity back after the recession.

AirTran was higher priced than its rival Delta Air Lines on many markets from Atlanta to beach destinations for the holidays. From Atlanta to Montego Bay in Jamaica nonstop, AirTran priced a Thanksgiving itinerary at $708, while Delta's was $538.

Big airlines haven't raced to match the higher prices of discounters because they have more seats to sell and may not have as much confidence that the economy is strong enough to support full-fare pricing on most all seats in premium destinations.

Some tips on finding affordable fares this holiday season:
Buy early: Demand will likely be stronger than supply this year, so prices will rise as seats sell. There are still some good prices out there.

Be flexible: Avoiding peak days can save you hundreds of dollars. Consider the Saturday before or Tuesday after Thanksgiving, for example. And the cheapest days of all can be the holiday days.

Shop around: Check websites that search fares across multiple airlines, like Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz, and sites that search more aggressively, like Kayak. Don't forget that Southwest fares are only available from the airline.

Find a cheaper beach: If it's a vacation you want, look at multiple destinations. The Caribbean may be selling stronger than Florida or Mexico, for example.

—Scott McCartney The Wall Street Journal

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