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Airlines cutting fares for holiday travel

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  October 30, 2008 04:32 PM

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Wow, these guys are making me look good. I was just on NECN yesterday morning talking about how uncertain this holiday season is for travelers and airfares. With the number of flights that have been cut -- USA Today reported last week that that the airlines would be flying 3,000 fewer flights a day this Thanksgiving season than last -- all indications suggest that travelers would probably have to pay more and have fewer options.
But the one wild card is the global economic fiasco: If enough worried consumers simply decided to pull back and not fly, the airlines, facing less-than-full planes would have to spread some holiday cheer in the form of discounts..

And now the AP is reporting this story:

The major US airlines have cut many fares for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
The airlines, in the midst of their worst year since at least 2005, may see the price-cutting as necessary in the face of a slumping economy that could cut into both leisure and business travel. Airfare experts say they typically don't see this kind of price-cutting until the last couple of weeks before big holidays.
Northwest Airlines started the rush Tuesday night with a broad holiday fare sale, and most other major carriers matched the prices Wednesday, according to Rick Seaney, chief executive of the travel Web site FareCompare.com.
"It's by far the most broad-based fare sale we've tracked in at least 18 months," Seaney said Thursday, "and this is the earliest I've ever seen one."
Tom Parsons, chief executive of discount travel site Bestfares.com, said in many cases travelers can still find better deals by shopping around and considering alternate airports.
Parsons said the cuts ranged up to 25 percent off the previous price for tickets that must be bought 21 or 30 days ahead of travel. He said travelers using secondary airports that typically have higher prices will get the biggest breaks.
But there are cheaper fares available on routes where the big airlines compete with low-cost carriers such as Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran, he said.
Some of the sale fares have blackout dates on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 -- the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving -- and Dec. 20. And there are only a handful of "super off-peak" days, as Northwest calls them.
Some of the cuts are dramatic. Delta shaved the cheapest price for an Atlanta-Nashville round trip around Thanksgiving from nearly $500 to $238, Seaney said. The cheapest Minneapolis-Seattle flight is $248.
In most cases, the prices are good until at least late November.

Cheaper holiday flights and being right. It's a wonderful life.

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