Q. I'm having a wedding in Italy in late September. My fiance and I thought September would be a good month for our relatives to travel to Europe because flight costs typically drop in the fall. Over the last few years, I've been able to find airfares for about $500-600 in off-peak seasons (I live in New York City). I'm a little concerned, though, that I haven't seen much in the way of fall sales yet. In the past, I've seen seen discounted fares offered by now for post-Labor Day travel. A friend recently speculated that the prices may not be reduced this year due to rising energy costs. If you were me, would you tell your guests to wait to buy tickets to Italy or to buy any fare below $1,000 now?
A. As you have probably already realized, nothing about air travel is quite what it used to be. Normally, now would be a good time to start looking for cheaper fall sales, but the September fares I've been tracking just went up rather than down last week after holding steady for over a month.
Most nonstop routes to Europe saw upward adjustments of $30-60 across the board, although a few jumped by as much as $300-400. They may all come down to previous levels again, but a bottom of $600-800 for early fall travel does seem to have been established. If airlines can't sell seats at these rates, they may simply discontinue service at a moment's notice.
None of those fares included Rome, which is generally a rather pricey destination, although less so this year thanks to Air One's new nonstop service from Boston and Chicago to Milan. Fall fares on these routes have long been available for $800, although they have been as low as $700, with connecting service to Rome and other Italian cities for $50-200 more.
From New York, your best bet is often Eurofly whose nonstop flights to Rome, Bologna and Naples regularly go on sale. Back in April, fares for early summer travel were $575 RT nonstop including taxes, so it wouldn't be entirely unreasonable to expect similar deals in the fall, but perhaps not until October or November.
From New York, September fares currently start at $880 RT nonstop with taxes, and these are available even for short weekend trips (e.g. 9/26-28), perfect for a Saturday wedding. From other U.S. cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, you can find fares on connecting service for slightly less.
That's still $200-300 more than you'd pay to get to London, Frankfurt or Paris, so on a relative basis this is not cheap, although with everything in flux, it's simply impossible to know if better deals are forthcoming. Even intra-European fares to Rome are high, so our usual suggestion to try to arrange your own connection through a cheaper gateway may not be worthwhile.
Incidentally, Eurofly also has an on-going sale for August travel with 10-15% off for families traveling together that would suit your nuptials well, so I advice you to contact the airline at 800-459-0581 to find out if they anticipate having a similar sale for September travel.
I hope it all works out for you so you can have the most romantic Roman wedding ever!