Book now: Holiday airfares are only going to get more expensive

Flights this holiday season are the highest in 5 years, estimates show

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Bad news for procrastinators: If you haven’t booked your holiday flights yet, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Airfares have been climbing as Thanksgiving inches closer and closer. Right now, prices around Thanksgiving are up 20% over 2019 and up a whopping 41% over last year, according to CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg.

Making matters worse, airfares will continue to rise by around 4% a week leading up to the holidays.

Everything seems to be absurdly pricey these days. So if you prolonged buying tickets and abandoned budgetary preparations, consider these tips for booking your end-of-year trips.

The best days to fly for Thanksgiving

Inflation and worker shortages affect just about every industry, and air travel falls in line. The cost of jet fuel has skyrocketed. There are fewer flights available. And after two years of avoiding it during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are planning to travel for one if not both of the major holidays this year.

The combination is driving up airfares to the highest they’ve been in five years, according to estimates from the fare tracker app Hopper.

“We all know why we don’t want to fly on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or come back on the following Sunday,” Greenberg told KYW Newsradio morning drive anchor Carol MacKenzie on Thursday.

“Smart travelers should go on the Friday before Thanksgiving and then do something really smart: Come back immediately after [Thanksgiving] … on that Friday.”

Travelers should head to the airport on Black Friday, a day when most other people are stuck at the mall.

“That’s when you’re gonna get your best deal,” he said.

Buy non-holiday flights now

While prices around Thanksgiving and Christmas are inflated, the rest of this year is on sale. Flights are starting at $39 from JetBlue or $59 from Southwest, to name a few.

“You’ll see a lot more sales coming into play that will last, in many cases, through March of next year,” said Greenberg. “But for Thanksgiving, all bets are off. It’s going to be tough.”

Why are hotels so expensive?

Flights are not the only thing surging in cost.

Business travel is reemerging from a pandemic slump. Hotels are operating at 100% occupancy, but only 60% of rooms are available, Greenberg explained, because they don’t have the staff to operate the other 40% of their inventory.

Bookings for corporate travel in August alone were up 73% over July, he noted. Meanwhile, hotel bookings between now and Nov. 19 are up six times what they were in 2019.

“Bottom line right now is the hotel rates are going to stay strong, airfares are going to — with the exception of [the holidays] — will come down.”