I've Been Here

We are always being asked this question...

"Isn't it cheaper to wait for a last minute sale"?

Hopefully this will help answer that.

Air fares: Christmas travel deals may be hard to find

Planes are full and airfares rising, so if you are hoping for a Christmas or March break holiday deal you may be out of luck.
For airline passengers who are waiting for a great deal for the upcoming holiday season, think again. The days of steep seat sales and fare wars are gone as airlines focus on profitability — and that means not selling seats at a loss. “Now is as good a time as it’s going to be. It’s not going to get any cheaper,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of Fare Compare. Even if a flight isn’t full, it is not smart for an airline to slash prices on the remaining seats at the last minute, said Robert Kokonis, president of AirTrav Inc., an airline consultancy firm. “If you dump seats at the last-minute, then consumers will hold off booking now,” Kokonis said, which ultimately hurts an airline’s yields. Planes in North America are full these days as airlines report high load factors. For example, United Airlines, the biggest carrier, has an 86 per cent load factor, year to date. That means on a 150-seat airplane, only 21 seats go unfilled, so airlines can afford to forgo a few empty seats, if they know the average ticket price is high enough to offset selling cheaper seats. So for consumers who are still waiting to make a booking for the peak holiday travel season for lower prices, Kokonis has simple advice. “Don’t wait. If you want to wait until two weeks before departure, they’re not going to drop. If anything, they will keep increasing.” And for those looking ahead for sun destinations to March Break, Kokonis said the ideal booking time is about two and half to three months before departure. He conceded that the one exception is that last-minute selloff websites may offer cheaper deals, if they have big chunks of unsold inventory. Fare Compare, who tracks airfares, says fares simply aren’t coming down for the peak travel season. “Our data shows base prices on airfares are up 1.5 per cent year over year,” Seaney said. “But last year was the highest on record over eight years of tracking fares.” Dynamics have also changed in just five years due to airline mergers, especially in the United States, as well as high fuel prices. Airlines are flying fewer seats, leading to more demand. Seaney added growth airlines like Southwest Airlines and WestJet are not expanding as quickly as they have in the past. “More people chasing fewer seats is a recipe for higher prices,” he said. There may still be competitive prices on short-haul routes, of less than 90 minutes, such as Toronto to New York, given the number of flights offered between those cities, he said. But once a flight starts to exceed 2½ hours, then the prices go up, especially for non-stop flights. The cheapest time to fly would be the first week of December. After Dec. 17, prices could jump 30 to 50 per cent, depending on the route. Because Christmas and New Year’s fall midweek this year, the weekends will be the most expensive. The cheapest days to fly are on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, followed by Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Of course, Seaney said, that doesn’t mean there won’t be occasional seat sales — if a traveller is willing to give up convenience, such as making two stops or facing an overnight connection to get to the final destination. But Seaney warns that opens up the possibility of other hassles, given that 15 per cent to 20 per cent of all holiday flights are delayed or cancelled.
“Flights are so full today, it’s hard to find you a seat if you need one,” he added.