Winners and losers for Thanksgiving airfares

It’s broken record time: If you haven’t purchased Thanksgiving airline tickets yet, please don’t wait another day. Fares jump by about $4 per day (on average) approaching the holiday, and late last week, a new airfare hike got underway.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, as high as Thanksgiving prices are, they’re not as bad as they have been. An analysis of FareCompare price data for the top 25 busiest markets showed 17 cities had cheaper airfares on average for 2016 compared to 2015.

Here are the winners and losers:

  • Biggest price decreases: The five markets with the biggest average fare decreases were Minneapolis/St. Paul (down 15%), Cleveland (down 10%), Chicago (down 9%), Boston (also down 9%) and Indianapolis (down 8%).
  • Biggest increases:  Philadelphia (up 11%), Houston (up 6%), Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami (all up 4%).
  • No change: Average prices for Orlando and Washington, D.C., were essentially flat.

It’s true that averages can be meaningless, but at least they show how prices are trending. If you live in a city where prices have shot up, there are still ways to save — during the holidays or anytime.

Fly unpopular days and times: At Thanksgiving, fly on the holiday itself (Thursday, Nov. 24) because it’s usually one of the cheaper days to fly. Avoid flights on popular days like the Wednesday before and Sunday after. During non-holiday periods, save by flying Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Check for connecting flights: We all want the convenience of a non-stop, but it usually comes with a premium, so compare costs for non-stops and connecting flights. The difference might be worth the extra pain of a longer travel day.

Drive and fly: Compare prices from multiple airports (not just your hometown), especially if you’re in a smaller city. Example: If you live in Richmond, Va., check prices from that airport as well as the Washington, D.C., hubs. The fare difference could make that 100-mile drive worth it.

FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney is an airline industry insider and top media air travel resource. Follow Rick (@rickseaney) and never overpay for airfare again.


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