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Report: Airfares are expected to soar with the approaching holidays

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Passengers wait in line to check in and/or purchase tickets for Delta Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport on Thursday, November 30, 2012. Average airfares for flights over the holidays are expected to be 5 percent to 8 percent higher than last year, according to a USA Today report on research by the travel booking site Orbitz. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Passengers wait in line to check in and/or purchase tickets for Southwest Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Thursday, November 30th, 2012. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Passengers wait in line to check in and/or purchase tickets for Southwest Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Thursday, November 30th, 2012. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Passengers wait in line to check in and/or purchase tickets for United at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Thursday, November 30th, 2012. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Debbie Young has watched airfares inch upward for travel during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but she said that won't keep her from flying to see family in Seattle.

“It's family. You don't think about it. You just go,” said Young, 58, of Clarion.

Average airfares for flights during the holidays are expected to be 5 percent to 8 percent higher than last year, according to a USA Today report on research by the travel booking site Orbitz.

If the holiday fares are too much to bear, BestFares.com CEO Tom Parsons advises cost-conscious travelers to postpone trips until fares plummet next month.

“If you're feeling bad that you can't make it home to see family for the holidays, just take your guilt trip in early 2013,” Parsons said. “Your pocketbook will love you for it.”

Research by Parsons shows travelers still looking to book flights could spend almost twice as much, on average, for coach-class tickets on holiday flights between Pittsburgh and several top destinations as they would for the same flights in January.

Parsons and other travel experts blamed increased holiday prices on high customer demand for a reduced number of available seats, due in part to airline mergers.

The lowest round-trip holiday airfares to Orlando — Pittsburgh's top destination by air — will be about $419 and jump to $569 with a Christmas departure and New Year's Day return, Parsons said. Average minimum prices will be $237 in January, he said.

“That's actually better than some cities,” Parsons said.

Going West could be particularly expensive for Pittsburgh fliers, Parsons said. The lowest round-trip fares to San Francisco will range from $662 to $708 during the holiday week, compared with $362 in January; prices for Hawaii flights will be at least $1,318 for a Dec. 22 departure but less than $600 in January.

FareCompare.com CEO Rick Seaney urged people who plan to travel over the holiday to book as soon as possible, noting airfares tend to go up $5 a day between late November and the second week of December and then $10 a day after that.

“There is nothing to be gained by waiting to purchase holiday airfare,” Seaney said.

Kayak.com spokesman Mike Kytoski said people should try to fly on weekdays to save money, noting travelers could pay 27 percent more than the average holiday fare for flights that depart Saturday, Dec. 22, and return the following Saturday.

Kytoski said a Christmas Day departure and Friday, Dec. 28, return flight could save 21 percent and a New Year's Eve departure and return flight on Thursday, Jan. 3, or Friday, Jan. 4, could save 27 percent.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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