Tom Parsons at Bestfares.com, the discount travel booking site, says that airlines are so concerned about the drop-off in Thanksgiving travel demand this year that advance-purchase requirements are being relaxed.
"The major airlines have now reduced their 14-day advance purchase holiday discount airfares to three days or no advance purchase...
"Travel on these little or no advance purchase airfares are valid from November 20 through December 3, 2008. We do suggest that travelers avoid traveling on Sunday, November 30, because prices are overly high due to demand on that date. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, the airlines will lower those three-day advance fares to no advance, so they can gobble up as many last-minute travelers as possible.
...We also suggest that this a very good week to book holiday travel for Christmas and New Year's. Many of the major airlines are offering cheaper airfares than they did just six short weeks ago.
Travel between major U.S. cities, except those in Florida, and fares to the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii have dropped since the week of October 6.
We believe there are two primary reasons why consumers are not booking travel.
1. The economic crisis we now face has made many travelers rethink a holiday getaway. Travelers would rather stay home than face the many new charges including increased ticket change fees and baggage fees that the airlines are now imposing on them.
2. The cost to travel by car had dropped. In many parts of the country the cost of gallon of gas is at least two dollars less than the price during July 2008 and at least a dollar less than November 2007.
...Lowest priced travel dates - December 13, 14 and 24, '08, January 6-8, '09.
Second lowest priced travel dates - December 15-19, 22, 25, 30 and 31, '08, January 1 and 5, '09.
Second highest priced travel dates - December 21, 23 and 26-28, '08, January 2-4, '09.
Highest priced travel dates - November 30, '08, December 20, '08.
... With no sign of an economic recovery in the near future, many of the major airlines are discounting airfares this holiday season much more than we expected. Imagine how many bargain basement airfare sales they will have to offer us in the first three months of 2009 to get us back in the air and flying."