Thanksgiving and travel. Travel and Thanksgiving. They go together.
The days surrounding Thanksgiving—this year the holiday falls on November 27—are always among the year's busiest for air travel. But this year could be different.
In an effort to regain pricing power (industry speak for the ability to impose higher ticket prices), the airlines are cutting flights, in some cases by as much as 15 percent compared to last year. And as those cutbacks take place, airlines are ratcheting up their fares.
The question raised by all these increases and decreases is whether they will have the desired effect, which is allowing the airlines to simultaneously downsize their operations and increase their profits.
Does it matter? Yes, and for at least two reasons. First, demand for Thanksgiving flights will be an early indicator of whether the airlines' planned price increases have been successful. If too few consumers find the higher ticket prices palatable, the airlines will be forced to relent and roll back fares. That's good for consumers, but would prolong the airlines' financial pain, possibly forcing more bankruptcies.
And second, if demand falls faster than capacity cutbacks, flights will boast more empty seats, even during the Thanksgiving crush, when planes generally fly full. Less congestion, both onboard and at the airport, means more comfort, less stress.
So, take our survey and weigh in with your flight plans for Thanksgiving 2008. We'll compile the results and, based on your feedback, post a future article predicting the state of air travel during Thanksgiving 2008.