Airlines are reacting swiftly to falling demand with fare sales. More than ever, if you're flexible (and who isn't these days?), you can find a pretty good price, assuming you can plan in advance (and can't we all, these days).
Rick Seaney at Farecompare.com says in an e-mail:
"In the past 24 hours the FareCompare.com proprietary airfare tracking system, which processes tens of thousands of airfares daily from over 500 airlines, noted the largest domestic airfare sale activity [of] any time in the past year."
My note: That's big news, since the first half of the year was remarkable for 21 successive across-the-board fare increases.
Suddenly, fare sales are all over the place for holiday travel, Rick says, adding:
"Northwest was the instigator Tuesday night as they fired out a wide-reaching domestic holiday airfare sale hours before their official merger announcement with Delta. The other major airlines have spent the day hurriedly matching and extending this sale.
"Take, for example, Delta Air Lines with the only non-stop between Atlanta and Nashville. The cheapest airline ticket on Monday was just under $500 roundtrip, but with Delta matching Northwest’s sale, that same seat can be had for $238 roundtrip (Mon. 24-Nov., returning Friday 28-Nov.).
"In years past we have tracked holiday airfare sales, but they typically were initiated less than two weeks before the holidays -- many times at the last minute.
"With unprecedented domestic seat cutbacks this year (211,000 fewer seats available each day domestically by Christmas), we were not optimistic about holiday sales – it appears however that the airlines have traded the year-long oil crisis for a global economic crisis. Demand began to wither at the end of the summer under pressure from higher airfares/fees, and more recently by consumers pulling back as they worry about the ramifications of the downturn in the U.S. economy.
"We expect to see more matching activity Thursday and urge consumers to take a second look at holiday airline tickets– they may be pleasantly surprised. The cheapest days to travel around the holidays are Tuesday, Wednesday and the day of the holiday – steer clear of Sunday and Monday after the holiday on returns."
Check out Rick's blog, Rickseaney.com, where he plans to post new fare-sale information as he digs it out later today "after all the matching activity has settled in."