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Air Travel May Not Be Fun, but It's Cheap

Carol Sottili

Flying to Phoenix, Cincinnati, Chicago? Even if you are stuck on the tarmac and your luggage gets lost, chances are it's costing you less this summer than last.

Farecast.com, a Web site that not only searches for airfares, but also predicts whether they're going up, down or staying the same, has done the math, and domestic airfares were overall cheaper this summer than summer 2006.
Overall, the dip is only 2 percent, but earlier this summer, fares were closer to 10 percent lower.

For some destinations, the average price really plummeted. From Reagan National, for example, the average round-trip fare to Charleston on Aug. 15, 2006, was about $342; on the same date in 2007, the price was about $231, a drop of about 33 percent. Phoenix went from $299 to $225, and Cincinnati from $308 to $238.

So where are fares headed? The site's "fareologist" John Rauser says they may have bottomed out for September and October departures, but it may be time to start looking for Thanksgiving deals. Here are Farecast.com's tips for getting good turkey travel deals:

* Start shopping on Aug. 22, which is 90 days before Thanksgiving.

*Consumers will find the best fares in the last week of August and the first two weeks of September.

* Wednesday-Sunday travel during Thanksgiving week is the most expensive.

* Come home Monday or Tuesday, and save $60 to $100. Return on Saturday, and save an average of $60.

* Departing Monday before Thanksgiving doesn't save all that much - $30 average.

To help you search, the site, www.farecast.com, offers a cool fare alert feature that will email daily fare updates, or notifiy you when the fare dips to your chosen price point.

The question this all brings to my mind is whether there is any connection between cheap fares and lousy service. If we paid more, would our flights be more likely to take off on time? And would anyone be willing to pay more even if that were the case?

By Carol Sottili |  August 20, 2007; 10:38 AM ET  | Category:  Airplanes , Carol Sottili
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Posted by: Amy | August 20, 2007 12:10 PM

You ask "Is any connection between cheap fares and lousy service?" I don't believe we deserve poor service just because prices are low. Prices are determined by the market. When they fall, it's because that is what the market will bear, not because the airlines are trying to do us a favor.

I hear frequent comments from the media that passengers are getting a great deal these days and have to put up with whatever the airlines dish out. I disagree. Air travel is still a big commitment of money, especially if one goes overseas. I just spent $1,000 roundtrip to visit Europe, and it was fun and I could afford it, but $1,000 is a lot of money. I had to budget for it, and I was very conscious that I was spending a significant amount. In return for doing so I appreciate not being barked at by flight attendants for trying to trying to use the bathroom long after the turbulence has subsided, and other basic politenesses that seem to have gone by the wayside.

Posted by: Lisa | August 20, 2007 3:14 PM

And would anyone be willing to pay more even if that were the case?

I routinely pay more for direct flights, and to fly to or from a more convenient airport, so in general, yes, I would and already do pay more for increased convenience and decreased time for me. But of course, like everything else, it depends on how much more money and how much better service. If it takes double the fare to get a 5% decrease in the liklihood of lost luggage, probably not...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2007 5:00 PM

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