Please don't ask Airfarewatchog.com to predict where airfares are heading. If we knew, we'd have retired long ago. We'd be sitting on the terrace of our villa on St. Barts, sipping cool drinks garnished with colorful paper umbrellas, watching the sunset. In other words, we'd have played the stock market and the oil futures market and we'd be very rich by now.
We'd rename our site Airfarepredictdog.com. (We received an angry email from someone recently who claims we told them that a certain route would go up in price but in fact it went down after they bought. Sorry, fella, that wasn't us. Probably our friends over at Farecast.com).
The truth is, no one really knows where airfares are headed.
I get asked this question all the time by my fellow journalists, but the truth is the economy and the airlines are just too unpredictable.
We'd be happy to tell you where to go to find out where airfares have gone, however, and to point out some amazingly low fares that you can buy right now. Indeed, it looks like the airlines are panicking lately, and fares, especially internationally from major US gateways, are considerably less than they were just a few months ago.
Many airfare pundits who have put their reputations on the line trying to predict airfares have ended up looking pretty silly--as silly as Jim Cramer now looks having told people that Bear Stearns was a "buy". Many of them said last year, when the airlines cut capacity and Delta announced its merger with Northwest, that fares would skyrocket. Well, the airlines cut capacity, but they couldn't keep up with falling demand thanks to an ever-weakening economy. As a result, airfares fell.
Some airfare experts even go so far as to anoint one particular day of the week the "best" day to buy airfares (sometimes it's Sunday, sometimes Tuesday, depending on whom they're talking to). But truth is, the best day of the week is when the fare on a route you want to buy goes down in an unadvertised sale, and that could be any day of the week and indeed any hour of the day.
Another thing that gets us all hot and bothered is when airfare tracking sites that don't actually sell airfares report on how far airfares have gone down. We've heard a grab bag of figures--20%, 30%, 40%--and perhaps you have too. But in its latest quarterly report, publicly traded Expedia, Inc. [disclosure: Airfarewatchdog.com is owned by Expedia] states that the company's revenue per air ticket sold decreased just four percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to 2007's fourth quarter.
And we quote:
To us, that's a more accurate picture of what airfares did late last year since it includes all types of fares sold to consumers. Anything else is irrelevant if you're looking for airfare statistics. It's not what the airlines were pricing seats at that counts; it's what they sold them for, and a large travel agency like Expedia is a good source for how much average airfares went up or down over a given period of time because it actually sells airfares rather than merely tracks the prices at which the airlines are publishing fares.
That said, we'd be happy to tell you where airfares are right now and to point out the best fares we can find.