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How to Buy Cheap Flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas Travel

Forecasts of airlines and the tourism industry ahead of the autumn tourist season and in anticipation of the winter holidays, reports USAToday.

Photo: IStock

Hopper, a travel agency that analyzes data to predict airfare prices, is seeing strong demand for vacation travel bookings after an "unusually busy" summer.

The pent-up demand after two years of the pandemic is partly because, for some travelers, this will be the first time they visit family since the COVID-19 outbreak, Hopper spokeswoman Lindsey Schwimer said.

“Omicron originated during the holiday season last year, so this year people will be eager to go on vacation and see family and friends,” she said.

Expect huge demand for holiday flights in 2022

While it's too early to tell how busy the fall and winter holidays will be - the AAA doesn't release seasonal travel forecasts until two weeks before the holiday - some experts suggest travelers should expect year-end travel to be as busy as summer. .

The TripAdvisor Fall Travel Survey, which predicts trends from September to November, found that 6 in 10 Americans plan to travel this fall. About 49% plan to fly.

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At the Cowen 2022 World Conference on Transportation and Sustainable Mobility, which took place virtually, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said the airline's bookings "remain strong" after Labor Day.

“Looking to the future, I am pleased with how we have handled this summer and recovered from the pandemic,” he said.

Airlines are hiring more

This summer has been a test for flights, with many flights delayed or cancelled. Personnel shortage played a significant role in this.

Globally, there were about 2021 million fewer aviation jobs in September 2,3, down 21% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Oxford Economics. This includes approximately 340 jobs in the aviation industry.

Airlines are taking steps to improve their operations.

U.S. airline employment increased by 2022 to 6 in June 775, including 767 full-time passenger airline employees, according to the latest data from the Department of Transportation. This is more than in the same month of 263, before the pandemic.

Three airlines contributed to the growth: Delta Air Lines hired 2981 people this month, United Airlines added 1322 people, and Southwest Airlines added 1007 people.

Airlines for America, the trade group that represents U.S. airlines, said its seven-member passenger carriers — Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United — are manning 10% more pilots compared to pre-pandemic times.

Last year, American Airlines hired about 12 people for various job categories, Isom said during the conference. He also said the company is "making good headway" as American continued to hire employees throughout the summer to prepare for the months ahead.

But there will be fewer flights this fall

Despite staff growth, airlines still lack workers to meet demand.

Many responded by removing flights from the schedule.

“September and October flight schedules have been reduced by 15% from pre-pandemic levels, and carriers are cutting September flights by 5% from what was scheduled at the beginning of the summer,” said Marley Collier, spokeswoman for Airlines for America.

“Airlines plan their schedules months in advance and constantly evaluate to optimize performance and prioritize business continuity,” he said.

American Airlines, which operates most of its flights out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, recently released its final schedule for November, showing 30 fewer flights.

American Airlines spokesman Brian Metam said the airline operates on a so-called "replacement schedule" that is released about a year in advance and adjusts it closer to scheduled flight times.

His final schedule is released about 100 days in advance, he said. On average, American makes about 5300 daily flights throughout the country.

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The annual throughput of US aircraft in 2022 is projected to be about 7,5-9,5% lower than before the pandemic, Metam said.

How to book vacation tickets in 2022

  • Don't Delay: Industry experts advise travelers to book tickets as soon as possible.

From now until October 20, consumers will find better tickets for Thanksgiving and the December holidays, Schwimer said. Higher prices and limited features will start after mid-October.

“There are still deals for the holidays, so we recommend booking as soon as you see a price that suits you,” she said.

  • Save money by flying on off-peak days. Avoid peak days to save money.

Expedia found in its Thanksgiving flight data that travelers can save an average of 5% on airfares by flying on the Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday before the holiday, rather than the Wednesday.

“For some destinations, the savings are even greater — for example, the average price of a ticket to Las Vegas drops from $550 to $380 (round trip) simply by moving the departure date to an earlier week,” said agency spokeswoman Francesca Taveras.

  • The two best days to fly.

For travelers who are flexible on dates or wait until the last minute, the best holiday deals are the days when the least number of travelers are expected: Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, Schwimer said.

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