Travel expert on airfares: 'Tough sledding for holiday travelers'

Jay Sorgi

Travel expert on airfares: 'Tough sledding for holiday travelers'

CREATED Oct. 25, 2011

MILWAUKEE - Airports including Mitchell International Airport typically find the days surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas among their busiest of the year.

That also means that the cost of flying is usually among the highest.

Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News" that even in the current economy, people still are choosing to fly for the holidays, and airlines are choosing to up their prices for holiday-time flights.

"Airlines are really comfortable about the demand for airline tickets," said Seaney.

"They've cut back seats.  Fuel prices are up.  That means they're going to try to pass along those fuel prices, and that means tough sledding for holiday travelers."

According to Seaney, those airlines have already started the price hikes.

"This is back to back airfare hikes, $10 roundtrip last week and $10 this week. 

Let alone the big hikes for other aspects of your flight besides the ticket.

"The two most onerous fees are the checked bag fee, which is typically $50 round trip right now, and the change fee.  If you have to change your plans, (the fee is) $150 round trip right now."

Seaney says that if you want to fly Thanksgiving and Christmas, get on your computer and book right now.

"If you're traveling for the holidays, I have sort of a rule of thumb right now: add $5 to your virtual airline ticket every day you wait.  I said that a couple of weeks ago, and we've already had a couple of airfare hikes.  Demand is good.  Definitely lock in those Thanksgiving tickets.  You probably have a couple more weeks before Christmas."

According to Seaney, the best opportunities for cheap airfares will come if you're willing to do your traveling between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or after New Years' day.

"If you want to travel and travel cheap, the first two weeks in December, the first two weeks in November and the first six weeks starting at the beginning of (2012), absolutely incredible prices right now, so as long as you stay away from the holidays, you're in pretty good shape," says Seaney.

Still, planes are expected to fill up during those times - and Seaney gives tips as well for those who have to fly then.

"If you are traveling on the holidays, stay away from Wednesday, and Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving, and the Monday after Christmas and New Years, and that will save you a couple hundred bucks.  If you can take a connecting flight, connecting flights are running about $100 cheaper than direct flights right now."

For example, we searched FareCompare.com on Tuesday morning and found these cheapest rates which augment Seaney's point about the days to fly:

Departure: Wednesday 11/23/11 (day before Thanksgiving)
Return: Monday, 11/28/11
Milwaukee to New York: $339
Milwaukee to Los Angeles: $443

Departure: Wednesday 11/23/11
Return: Tuesday 11/29/11
Milwaukee to New York: $258
Milwaukee to Los Angeles: $315

(Note: those prices are ALWAYS subject to change.)

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