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Thanksgiving air travel to have less seats, higher prices

November 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thanksgiving travel this year is going to mean higher air fares and fewer seats. Since demand is down from last year and fuel costs have risen, airlines have cut back on the number of flights for the holiday.

It's no secret Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel time of the year at airports around the country. That makes it tough to get a plane reservation. But this year it may be downright impossible because airlines are flying fewer flights this holiday.

In a Skype interview with Rick Seaney, CEO of farecompare.com, he says because of higher fuel costs the airline industry has reduced the number of flights around the nation this year by more than 8,000.

"Airlines are saying 'look you know if I have to fly my airplane and can't make a profit, I'm just not going to fly that plane,'" said Seaney.

And if there are fewer flights, then there are fewer seats available.

Looking at the numbers of airline seats dropped this year versus last year over Thanksgiving weekend:

  • On Thursday they will be down 3.5 percent.
  • On Friday they will be down 5.1 percent.
  • On Saturday 3.7 percent of seats will have been dropped.
  • On the busiest travel day of the year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, there are more than 35,000 fewer seats.

And to make matters worse travelers will pay even more to fly this year too.

"We're tracking prices up between 5 and 10 percent this year," said Seaney. "They were already up 5 to 10 percent last year as well, especially for non-stops. So if you're thinking about taking a nonstop flight, we're seeing some prices as high as 30 or 40 percent higher than last year for nonstops."

So what can you do to make it easier to get home for that fabulous stuffed bird despite the stuffed planes?

"If you can, avoid the most expensive and the busiest days to travel," said Seaney. "We already know that Sunday is always the busiest day of the year. Monday is also a big day coming back from Thanksgiving. Avoid the Wednesday before."

And if you're going to buy tickets for travel this Thanksgiving holiday, then you have to move really quickly and buy them in the next day or two.


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