Sun Sentinel/George Wilson
November 24, 2008
Don't expect lower fuel prices to lower domestic airfares. Richard Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, predicts "stable high prices for domestic airfares. We had 30 airfare hikes between the summer of '07 and '08, which raised the price point 20 to 40 percent. I think that price point will stay stable in 2009."
The trend toward fewer flights may continue, too. The Air Transport Association of America's outlook for 2009 noted that seating capacity has fallen between 10 and 12 percent nationally the past year, with a 25 to 50 percent decrease at many of the nation's top 100 airports. "All signs suggest that the schedule cuts prompted by high fuel prices in 2008 will deepen in 2009," ATA chief economist John Heimlich said.
Travelocity's Brown says consumers are choosing destinations based on airfare. For example, with fares to Honolulu up 18 percent, the city has fallen off Travelocity's top 10 spring break bookings.
With fewer flights and passengers, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that on-time arrival rates are up, while flight cancellations, passenger complaints and lost baggage are down.
The good news: FareCompare's Seaney says "international travel is going to have the best deals in the last three to four years," due to decreases in fuel surcharges and some new start-up routes with introductory prices. For a peak summer trip to Europe, March is typically the best time to buy tickets, he said, but pricing may be volatile, so sign up for fare alerts.