Summer vacation is over and travelers are beginning to set their sights on the holidays.
Cost-savvy consumers would be wise to book now, travel industry experts say. Fares are either up or flat in most cases and airlines are planning to pack planes to capacity, similar to last year.
The majority of travel agents advise booking holiday travel six months or more before departure, according to a recent survey by Travel Leaders Group. Thanksgiving is less than three months away.
Oklahoma City fares increased 8.8 percent in the first quarter compared to the same time period last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Overall, U.S. fares were up nearly 4.8 percent.
And airlines have been stingy with discounts.
“Fares are going to stay high and airlines are going to squeeze every bit of capacity they can,” said Karen Carney, spokeswoman for Will Rogers World Airport. “Travelers are going to have to shop around.”
One way to save is for travelers to be flexible about their travel dates. Karney said more travelers have been willing to fly on Christmas Day, for instance.
Southwest Airlines' fares are comparable to last year and the airline did not increase capacity this year, said spokesman Chris Mainz.
The company had record full flights in August and that could continue through the end of the year.
Mainz said Southwest Airlines offers a credit to customers whose flight decreases in price after they've bought their ticket.
“I encourage them to go ahead and book,” he said. “They can always rebook at the lower fare and use the credit for a future travel credit.”
According to the Travel Leaders survey, agents are counseling clients to get the most for their dollar by being flexible with times and dates and booking air travel as part of a tour or cruise package.
Bonnie Hedges, vice president of sales and marketing for Travel Leaders/Bentley Hedges Travel, said customers have mostly been interested in Thanksgiving trips to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico or cruises with their family.
The company also has had corporate customers purchasing travel gift certificates as rewards for their employees this year.
She said their agents haven't booked many Christmas trips yet.
“We have limited availability out of Oklahoma,” she said. “If you plan to fly anywhere during Christmas, you need to do it now.”
She also recommends purchasing trip cancellation insurance “because you never know what kind of weather we'll have.”
We have limited availability out of Oklahoma. If you plan to fly anywhere during Christmas, you need to do it now.”