Over the weekend, FareCompare's Rick Seaney noticed a few airlines were adding a strange $10 surcharge to fares for November 29 and January 2 and 3. Yes, that's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the two days following New Year's—all major holiday travel days. So, effectively, it's a $10 holiday travel surcharge.
But is this anything more than typical airline shenanigans? I talked to the folks at our sister site Airfarewatchdog.com, and the answer is an emphatic "No." We're talking about the holidays after all, the sacred airline industry cash cow. This $10 surcharge may be a new method to the madness of holiday fares—Seaney mentions that the surcharge is a "quick way" to jack up prices—but increased fares around Thanksgiving and Christmas are nothing new to seasoned holiday travelers.
Then again, this isn't your typical holiday season, is it? After last year, when people booking at the last minute were generally greeted with good deals, there really is no clear sense of what to expect for 2009. We know airlines have cut capacity across the board, and we know planes are flying pretty full. But we also know this hasn't really nudged fares upward in any significant way. Fares will definitely go up for the holidays, if only because they always do. But how much? That's anyone's guess.
So what's a holiday traveler to do? First off, don't panic. Second, start pricing fares for your holiday travels now if you haven't already. Set a benchmark for prices and then track them for as long as you're comfortable waiting. It sounds like the airlines may try to push fares up now, but last year proved that in the end, the airlines will take what they can get.
For more holiday booking tips, check out our eight ways to save on holiday travel.