Q. Why are the airlines allowed to get away with price gouging during the holidays? Flights that were $300 a month ago are now $800 or more during Thanksgiving week... it's awful. The airlines are capitalizing on people's desire to spend the holidays with their families.

A. Airfares always go up for holiday travel. Peak holiday fares will be at least 10 percent higher this season than last, and will be even more pricey on some routes. It's all due to the airlines having cut tens of thousands of seats for the holiday season and because of airline mergers. Delta no longer competes with Northwest because they're the same airline now. Southwest doesn't compete with ATA and Airtran because it bought them. Continental and United are one, as are Midwest Airlines and Frontier. Despite the higher costs, adjusted for inflation, airfares are lower now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. No wonder the airlines have lost billions over the last decade: they're selling the product for less than it costs them to provide it. And, of course, it's all about supply and demand. With fewer seats, airlines can charge what the market will bear. To save money on Thanksgiving travel, consider taking an early flight on Thanksgiving Day and returning the Saturday after the holiday rather than on Sunday. It's always possible that fares will come down just before the holidays, so be sure to check often and sign up for free emailed airfare alerts.

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