With so many would-be travelers weighing the desire to visit friends and family against the need to save money, this holiday travel season is shrouded in uncertainty.
The question: Is this Christmas going to be a merry one for travelers, and for the airlines? Or not?
To find out, we invited our readers to share their Christmas travel plans with us. If their plans are a valid indicator of others' travel behavior, this will be a quiet travel holiday—good for travelers (less congestion, more comfort), but bad for the airlines (fewer tickets sold).
Here's what you told us:
Question: Compared to my Christmas travel plans last year, this year I am: a) more likely to take an airline flight, b) less likely to fly, or c) about equally likely to fly.
Only 27 percent reported that they were more likely to fly this year, and 29 percent are as likely to fly this year as they were a year ago. But a full 45 percent are less likely to fly.
Question: This year, my Christmas travel plans are to: a) take an airline flight, b) take a trip by car, or c) stay home.
Among our readers, 41 percent plan to fly, 18 percent will drive, and 42 percent will stay home.
Question: If you plan to fly less or not at all, the primary reason is: a) high airline ticket prices, b) high price of other non-airline travel expenses, or c) other (please specify).
By far the most common response, at 55 percent, was high ticket prices.
In the "Other" category, readers mentioned the economy ("Economy, lost job"), fees ("Higher fees for pets on flights"), and the travel experience itself ("The hassle of flying").
Question: If you're not traveling over Christmas, what are your plans?
Not surprisingly, given the gloomy economic climate, the great majority of our readers' plans revolved around home and hearth. People's non-travel plans for the holidays included:
- Stay home and enjoy time with family.
- Stay at home, go see a movie, just regular at-home stuff, chores and such.
- Stay home and invite friends over.
- Either driving to a closer relative's house, or staying home.
- Staying home and wishing everyone a happy holiday!
Among the few comments that pertained to flying rather than avoiding air travel was the following: "I'm flying the day after Christmas to get lower airfare and a not-as-stressful trip." Cheap and comfortable—that's a reliable recipe for happy holidays, whether at home or on the road.