Holiday airfares are expected to rise in the coming weeks, according to new data released Tuesday, and travel experts are advising people to start booking flights now for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
The cheapest airfares for U.S. holiday travel typically are found between September and mid-October, according to an analysis of last year’s fares released Tuesday by the comparison travel website Kayak.
The Kayak analysis found that average prices for domestic flights for Thanksgiving jumped 17 percent above the lowest average fares after mid-October. Airfares increased up to 51 percent for Christmas and 25 percent for New Year’s Eve after mid-October, the report said.
International airfares steadily increased closer to the holiday dates, according to Kayak.
Airlines are operating with fewer flights compared to a year ago to increase profitability, and most leave the gate with the majority of their seats occupied, said Sandra Trottier, AAA Dayton office district supervisor.
“With the increase in travel during the holidays, availability will be limited, especially for peak travel dates such as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following,” said Trottier, a certified travel counselor. AAA provides travel services at area offices including Dayton, Beavercreek, Hamilton, Middletown and Springfield.
The website Airfarewatchdog.com expects peak holiday fares to be higher this year than 2012 because of airline consolidation and capacity cuts.
Traffic at the Dayton International Airport remains steady, although Frontier Airlines discontinued service there in May, said Linda Hughes, an airport spokeswoman. Southwest and United Airlines both offer local service to Denver International Airport, which was Frontier’s only route from Dayton, she said.
“At this point all of the planes are going out much fuller, but we still have a nonstop destination to Denver, Colo.,” Hughes said.
Holiday travel often involves visiting family and friends, but many people vacation to celebrate the holiday and avoid seasonal stress, Trottier said.
“Cruise lines are offering great deals right now on departures for the upcoming holiday. But like the availability for airline flights, these deals are also limited by capacity — the number of cabins still available,” she said.
People traveling outside the U.S. should plan early to make sure they have secured the proper documentation well in advance, Trottier said. For example, it can take up to 12 weeks to obtain a passport.
Trottier said flexibility is the key to saving money on airline travel. Adjusting departure or return dates and times often can result in savings, she said.
This year, Christmas and New Year’s fall in the middle of the week, which means travelers won’t necessarily be competing for the same dates, experts said.
For lower fares, Kayak suggests departing the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and returning on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or the following Tuesday. Last year, traveling on those days resulted in 15 percent to 23 percent lower fares.
Christmas travelers should try departing as close as possible to Dec. 25, which last year saved travelers more than 20 percent on average.
Shorter trips centered around New Year’s Eve and Day last year resulted in the cheapest holiday fares, with savings up to 30 percent, according to Kayak.
The cost of air travel in the southwest Ohio region has dropped compared to last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The average cost of domestic airfare at the Dayton International Airport was $364 during the first quarter of this year, down 3 percent from the same period in 2012, the bureau reported.
Average domestic airfare at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport was $519, down 2.4 percent from 2012. Cincinnati ranked second in the nation among airports with the highest average domestic airfare for the first quarter, according to federal data.
Port Columbus International Airport saw its average domestic airfare jump 2.1 percent to $381 during the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2012.
Nationally, the average cost of domestic airfare was $378, up .6 percent from the same period in 2012.
Dayton International Airport passenger boardings
Source: Dayton International Airport
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