Q. We have been looking at fares to both Australia and Europe on United for May, June and July.  We have noticed that many of the long haul flights have one-third to one-half of the coach seats already booked and no cheap fares are available.  Is United playing a game or has someone purchased all of the cheaper, overseas seats already?

A. What you’ve found could be explained by a number of reasons. Perhaps other airlines have bought seats on United in a code share agreement, or perhaps business has indeed picked up and more seats have been sold. Another explanation: airlines have eliminated flights from their schedules, mothballed unwanted planes in the desert, and are using smaller planes (767s instead of 747s for example) on some routes, in a bid to drive prices up and fill seats. And fares to Europe do indeed appear to have firmed up. Usually around this time of year, dead of winter fares to Europe are much lower than what we’re seeing currently. There will probably be spot, unadvertised sales here and there, but we wouldn’t be surprised if international fares, on average, remain higher than last year.

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