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Utahns shouldn’t expect many deals on holiday airfares

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Travelers check their luggage at a United Airlines express check-in area at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. Airfares for holiday travel in 2013 are expected to be high again this year, and bookings for Thanksgiving are already filling fast, experts say. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

By Tom wharton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Oct 18 2013 11:51AM
Updated Feb 14, 2014 11:36PM

Don’t expect to see many airfare bargains during the busy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

"We’re seeing prices a little higher this year," said Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir, an online travel agency with a focus on airfares. "They are up about 1 to 5 percent. Last year, fares were on the high side, so being close to what they were last year is not necessarily great news."

Lynda Rowley, an agent with Salt Lake City’s Morris Murdock Travel, offered similar sentiments.

"Fares are close to the same price as last year, which has not been good for the past couple of years," she said.

The two travel agents said the key to saving money during the busy holiday season is to be flexible on the days you travel.

For example, Klee said air travelers should avoid the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving if at all possible. In fact, travelers who haven’t booked for Thanksgiving already may have a difficult time getting a seat on those dates.

"The lowest fares are for those who are leaving Monday and coming back the following Tuesday," said the air travel expert. "You can save an average of $249 per ticket that way. A lot of people can’t make it for eight days, but they could realize substantial savings by adjusting their dates by even a day or two."

Rowley agreed.

"If you can be flexible, one day can be quite a bit more than the other, just because of the space that can be available," she said. "Sometimes you can’t, but being flexible any time is going to get you a better flight experience."

Klee said that air travelers who haven’t made plans for Thanksgiving should be booking as quickly as possible. Fares have already gone up on the busiest days.

He said there isn’t quite the urgency for Christmas yet, unless you are traveling to some place warm such as Hawaii, Florida or the Caribbean, where planes are already starting to get full.

Rowley said Utahns planning to fly to southern California for a holiday Disneyland trip might consider Long Beach Airport instead of the closer Orange County Airport. She said places such as San Diego, Orlando and Florida cruise ports also experience higher-than-normal holiday airfares.

Klee said Europe, on the other hand, can be a good bargain, especially at Thanksgiving.

"Europe fares are great throughout the winter, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s," he said. "You can get some amazing fares to Europe if you want to go during the colder season there."

Klee said Christmas travel might be slightly easier this year because Christmas and New Year’s fall on Wednesday.

"There are not obvious days that are more popular," he said. "The Friday before Christmas and the Sunday after New Year’s are days that you should avoid if you can. All of the other days, check any date you are willing to fly. Some days are a lot cheaper than others. It varies market to market."

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton

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