Holiday travelers seem to be paying more

Posted November 20, 2009 5:24 p.m. EST
Updated November 21, 2009 11:38 p.m. EST

— Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials said Friday that airlines are reporting full flights next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, and they're expecting the same for Christmas.

"The number of available seats from RDU is down 3 percent (from last year)," RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said. "That's a result of the changes airlines have made to the flight schedules and to their aircraft sizes."

Hamlin said there are seven fewer daily departures and that some airlines exchanged larger planes for smaller ones.

Travel experts say that across the nation, demand is up and the number of travel deals is down. The holidays give airlines a chance to charge more per ticket, local travel agent Tony Maupin says.

For example, the cheapest flight found on Expedia Friday for a ticket from RDU to Hartford, Conn., two weeks before Christmas, was $216 on Friday. For travel during the Christmas week, that ticket's price jumps to $377.

"That's the new version of the friendly skies," Maupin said.

He says many airlines are for the first time are making customers pay a vacation surcharge – the amount varies depending on the day of the flight – as another way to increase revenues during the holidays.

"You pay to carry extra baggage on the airline. You pay to have a drink. You pay to have a headset," he said. "With one airline in Ireland, you pay to use the toilet."

Maupin says fares from RDU are generally lower than they are out of Charlotte because of competition and the availability of low-fare airlines.

To save some money on tickets, he recommends traveling on the holiday and to avoid traveling on Sundays.