Holiday Air Travel Tips

October 15, 2009
Michael Sheehan

Good news: average airline fare prices are down from last year by as much as 20%. Bad news: some airlines are trying to boost tepid revenues by imposing a “peak travel” surcharge of $10 per trip if you fly on certain days.

If Halloween decorations are in the stores, turkeys, pilgrims, Santas, and reindeer can’t be far behind. That means it’s time for holiday travelers to start shopping for airline bargains, according to Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com. And, says Seaney, there’s both good news and bad news awaiting those who are planning to travel by air over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The good news is that average airline fare prices are down from last year by as much as 20%. Part of the bad news is that some airlines are trying to boost tepid revenues by imposing a “peak travel” surcharge of $10 per trip if you fly on certain days, like the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the weekend after Christmas, or the weekend after New Years. That means your schedule is going to be a factor in how much you’ll pay to travel, says Seaney. If you’re able to extend your holiday stay to a few days before or after the holiday itself, you may be able to save on airfare. The weekend before Thanksgiving and the day after Turkey Day, for example, may be the best times to travel, according to Seaney, if you want cheaper fares.

Travel shoppers should keep in mind, says Seaney, is that the steep drop in fares that happened around holiday time last year isn’t likely make a repeat appearance. Those bargains were driven by sharply lower oil prices that went from $145 a barrel in July to $60 a barrel in early November. The odds are that won’t happen again and those who wait too long to book and buy their airline tickets may end up paying top dollar.