Holiday airfares coming down!

George Hobica, October 18, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    If you've been watching TV and reading the papers lately, you've seen the dire warnings that peak holiday travel airfares have been marching in only one direction: up. Buy today or you'll pay more tomorrow!

    Of course, we at AFWD have dedicated our working lives to tracking airfares, and we know that fares go up and down as airlines test the waters to see how much passengers are willing to pay. Not only do fares go up and down, but the airlines employ sophisticated computer programs that adjust the number of seats at the lowest fares. So one moment there might be just one seat or no seats at the lowest fare between, say, Newark and San Francisco and then next minute there might be 5 seats.

    So when the New York Times reported in an October 15 front page article that "Holiday Airfare is Soaring Daily" and a flight departing Nov. 25 and returning Nov. 29 from Newark to San Francisco that was $504 on Sept. 18 was $770 if bought last Thursday, we decided to track that and other routes mentioned in the article to see if they would go down in price.

    On Saturday Oct. 17 at 10:46 AM, Newark to San Francisco on those dates was available not for $504 or $770, but rather for $467 round-trip including taxes:

    And on Sunday, Oct. 18, as the 9:53 AM screen shot from a Travelocity search below shows, the same route, with nonstops on Continental, is down to $389.20 round-trip, including taxes (which, by the way, if this is your route, we'd suggest buying right now. It's a very decent deal and a far cry from $770 or even $504 round-trip.)

    We're not going to beat a dead horse here, and our only point is that if you keep looking (and it only takes a minute to search a fare) you may indeed find that a fare that was out of your reach today has suddenly become quite reasonable tomorrow.

    Also, this is not to say that some routes aren't very expensive if you were to search right now, and some, especially to smaller destinations with service by just a couple of airlines, may remain high. But on routes with lots of competition, we may see lower fares in the hours and days ahead.