Holiday airfare going up

Flights more crowded, too

Los Angeles TimesDecember 5, 2012 

Flying for the holidays has gotten a bit more expensive this year.

The average airline ticket price for domestic flights departing in the last two weeks of December was recently $469, a 4 percent increase over the same period last year, according to ticket sales on Priceline.com, one of the world's largest travel websites.

The increase is in line with airfare hikes earlier in the year of about 4 percent, according to Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation's airlines.

A spokeswoman for the trade group said airline prices have not risen as fast as inflation over the last few years. "So air travel is still a good deal," Jean Medina said.

In addition to higher prices, holiday travelers can also expect crowded planes. Airline mergers and consolidations over the last few years have cut the number of available seats on the nation's airlines. As a result, empty seats are rare, particularly on popular routes.

The airline trade group predicts the average plane will be 80 percent full during holiday travel.

To find the best deal, travel agents suggest booking early because airfares begin to rise dramatically 21 days before the departure date.

The average ticket price of $469 is based on bookings made in the last two weeks of November, according to Priceline.com. For holiday travelers who booked in early October, the average price was $430, according to the website.

"For anyone who still has to buy holiday air tickets, the message is simple: The clock is ticking," said Brian Ek, a travel expert for Priceline.com.

People looking for lower-cost flights in the second half of this month should consider departing Dec. 17, 18, 25, 27 or 31, according to the website.

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