The Forecast for Fall Airfares

Tom Parsons, The Dallas Morning News, August 8, 2011

The calendar says it's still summer, but with school starting soon, summertime travel is almost over. That means it's time to start planning fall travel, and we're starting to see some nice sales for the coming season.

In recent weeks, airlines such as Frontier, Southwest, AirTran and Virgin America have been running sales for travel through Nov. 16, and we expect to see more of these sales. We've even seen airfares as low as $99 one-way to Los Angeles and San Francisco and $119 to Seattle on Virgin America, plus taxes and fees. Friday and Sunday flights have been excluded from these sales. Booking those days could cost 50 to 100 percent more.

Southwest has had sales for travel through Dec. 14, with many days around Thanksgiving blacked out. If you do want to travel over Thanksgiving, the Friday after Thanksgiving can be one of the cheaper days to travel, but forget about traveling the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

We're still seeing sales to Europe for travel Aug. 14 through mid-November. Regular fares to Europe for travel through October are cheaper than fares for the slower winter months. Keep in mind that Thanksgiving can be a good time to travel to Europe because it isn't an international holiday. You don't have competition for seats from European travelers.

Sales to Hawaii come and go, with fares from Dallas dropping under $500 round trip, including taxes and fees, for travel after Labor Day. We could see fares come down again if the airlines don't fill those seats. It isn't uncommon to see the Caribbean and Mexico go on sale for travel September through mid-December, though Thanksgiving would have blackout dates because of domestic connections.


Because of Southwest's acquisition of the airline, AirTran will pull out of Dallas on Nov. 21, even though the route structure won't be united under one name until 2012. Under the Wright Amendment, if Southwest or any of its affiliates operates out of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the airline must give up gate space at Love Field, and Southwest wants nothing to do with D/FW.

The loss of AirTran may push East Coast fares up for Christmas and for January and February travel. AirTran has kept East Coast fares down. Now we'll have to rely on Southwest and Frontier, via Milwaukee, to give us lower fares.

We probably won't see good fares to Atlanta for a few months once AirTran ends service because there won't be a low-cost carrier offering nonstop flights in the market. We will have one-stop service out of Love Field, which could be via Houston or St. Louis, but we probably won't see good fares in December and January.

A lot of cities that AirTran serves from Dallas may not have service from Southwest, and we expect fares to cities such as Portland, Maine; Rochester, N.Y.; Dayton and Akron in Ohio; and Memphis to go up until Southwest decides which of those cities it will serve from Dallas.

Once the acquisition is finalized and we see what Southwest does with its route map, we will have lots of one-stop options out of Dallas. That will pressure American and Delta to lower fares. Once we hit 2014 and the Wright Amendment restrictions on nonstop flights from Love Field end, things will be a lot nicer.

Even though Spirit Airlines is notorious for add-on fees, since returning to the Dallas market it has brought down fares to Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas. The airline runs a continuous sale on fares, but you have to be watchful about fees.

Spirit will begin service between Dallas and Chicago on Aug. 18, and that could bring down prices to connecting markets such as Boston, Detroit and New York LaGuardia.

Other airlines have been matching Spirit's fares, so if you don't want to pay for boarding passes, carry-on luggage and more, you can fly on a competitor.


Tom Parsons is CEO of [email protected]


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