Thursday, December 11, 2008

Airline Holiday Recipe: Put 10 Lbs. of Stuffing in a 5-Lb. Bag?

Airlines are hoping everybody cooperates and takes to the skies over the Christmas holidays.

The Air Transport Association is guessing that there will be a 9 percent year-over-year decrease in the number of passengers who will travel globally on U.S. airlines during the 21-day winter holiday travel season that starts Dec. 18 and runs through Jan. 7.

This isn't a guess, though: The number of available seats has declined 9 percent from the same period a year ago "resulting in full or near-full flights throughout the holiday," the airline trade group says.

[On domestic routes, the routes the vast majority of Americans will fly over the holiday, the decrease in seat capacity is actually more like 12 or 13 percent compared with last year.]

However the math ultimately works out, expect full planes, even if the decrease in air travel demand is sharper than the ATA forecasts -- which is my own prediction.

On the other hand, if you're flexible there are serious fare-sales to be found, as airlines try to keep people flying.

For example, I have to get to San Francisco and back. On short notice, I booked a round-trip fare on Continental, with a Saturday night stay, at $283. Right, $283, round-trip, coast to coast.

But fares vary wildly, depending on which routes have open seats, so shop around.


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