WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, November 14, 2017) –– Thanksgiving is only ten days away. Although the first week of October was the best time to book a flight at bargain basement air fares if you were planning on flying to your Thanksgiving destination, you still have a little time left to find a last-minute deal on Thanksgiving airfares, especially if you book the earliest flight out on Thanksgiving morning, or catch a flight on Black Friday, as savvy travel counselors at AAA Travel advise. Airfares remained stable throughout October. Yet with each passing day, an additional 69 thousand passengers daily book those flights. AAA travel agents are also noticing a last-minute surge in travelers booking hotel reservations for Thanksgiving. Day by day, the cost is increasing too. The way of the procrastinator is hard, as the booking window narrows.
The travel volume will increase this Thanksgiving. To avoid the longest lines at airports, crowded airplanes, and the hassles of missing connecting flights and other air travel snags, such as flight delays and flight cancellations borne of inclement weather, refrain from booking your traditional Thanksgiving travel period flights on these three days in this order, Sunday, November 26; Wednesday, November 22; and Friday, November 17. During the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel interlude, the tarmacs at the big three area airports will be extremely busy, if the 2015 Thanksgiving air-travel period is a reliable guide. Back then, air passengers boarded 13,169 departure and arrival flights touching down and taking off from the runways at Reagan National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, tabulates AAA Mid-Atlantic. AAA is releasing its 2017 Thanksgiving forecast, Thursday, November 16.
“Although the cost of jet fuel is increasing ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, it is up 20 percent over the same period a year ago, you can still find cheaper airfares if you avoid the peak travel days,” said Victoria Stark, Retail Manager, AAA Fairfax Travel Store. “Consider booking a flight into an alternate airport within a 90-mile radius of your origin and destination airports. It is axiomatic: the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays are the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. So the object lesson is clear: now is also the ideal and opportune time to book your Christmas itineraries way ahead of the crowds.”
During early November, airfares increased by an average of a dollar more per day, according to a study by a research firm. However, airfares are spiking by an average of $10 more per day in the two week period before the Thanksgiving holiday, which falls on Thursday, November 23, cautions Hopper Research. So with Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, it becomes more expensive to book a flight each day deferred. In other words, that flight will cost you $50 less if you book today than if you waited until this coming Saturday.
“Flight attendants, doors to arrival and crosscheck.” Last Thanksgiving, an estimated 3.69 million Americans flew to their Thanksgiving destinations, compared to 3.63 million air passengers in 2015, and 3.61 million Thanksgiving holiday travelers in the skies in 2014, AAA projected. In contrast, 88,500 Washington area residents flew to their Thanksgiving destination during 2016, compared to 84,000 residents in 2015. Last Thanksgiving, round trip airfares for the top 40 domestic air routes were 21 percent higher than they were the previous Thanksgiving, for an average of $205 for a round trip airfare, AAA projected. But try to avoid booking your departure flight on the day before Thanksgiving and your returning flight on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, counsels AAA Travel Services. On each leg of your journey, the cheapest day to book a flight at this juncture is Thanksgiving Day itself, which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November.
A flight on Thanksgiving Day has the added bonus or benefit of having “the least chances of delay,” travel experts say. Here is why. This time around: “The busiest and most expensive day to depart is Wednesday, November 22, explains Hopper Research. “You can save $54 by departing on Thanksgiving morning or you can save $48 by departing on Monday, November 20th. The busiest and most expensive day to return is Sunday, November 26. You can save $161 by returning on Wednesday, November 29th instead.”
Airlines for America (A4A) is also forecasting the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day will be the busiest day for persons taking to the skies on U.S. airlines during the “12-day air-travel period.” For instance, A4A projects “The busiest travel days ranked in order” are expected to be “Sunday, November 26; Wednesday, November 22, and Friday, November 17. The lightest travel day is expected to be Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23.” To accommodate the uptick in airline passengers this Thanksgiving, the airlines are “adding 86,000 more seats in the marketplace each day,” A4A says, for the “additional 69 thousand daily passengers.”
Before you hear the words “We’ve now reached our cruising altitude,” prepare for new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures in standard security lanes at Reagan National, Dulles International, and BWI Thurgood Marshall, which were announced November 1, and require passengers to remove electronic devices larger than a cellphone from a carry-on bag. The new procedures do not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA Pre✓® using TSA Pre✓® Lanes. AAA Travel also advises:
Arrive at the airport two hours before your domestic flight departures and three hours before international flight departures.
Keep an eye on an airport kiosk for flight schedules and flight status and confirm your gate location
Don’t over pack.
Check the airline’s website to see the rules around carry-on luggage. Some airlines reserve the overhead bins to passengers paying full fare.
Be prepared for fees for checked bags.
Consider upgrading old heavy luggage to newer light weight luggage.
During the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday airline travel period, 84 percent of the 2,436 departure flights at Ronald Reagan National Airport were on time, and 16 percent were delayed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). In contrast, 85 percent of the 2,435 arrival flights were on time, 14 percent experienced delays, plus 19 flights were cancelled and four were diverted. That Thanksgiving air-travel period at Washington Dulles International Airport, 86 percent of the 1,025 departure flights were on time, 14 percent were delayed and only two flights were cancelled. Remarkably, 88 percent of arrival flights were on time, and 11 percent were delayed and five arrival flights were cancelled, and three arrival flights were diverted.
Of the 3,124 Thanksgiving holiday flights at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) Airport that holiday season, 86 percent of departure flights were on time, as was 86 percent of the arrival flights. In contrast, 14 percent of departure flights were delayed and nine flights were cancelled, likewise 14 percent of arrival flights were delayed. However, three arrival flights were diverted, and 10 were cancelled, according to BTS’ on-time performance statistics for BWI. Historically, “visiting family and friends is the single reason Americans travel during the holidays,” explained the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Such visits account for “53 percent of all Thanksgiving long-distance trips,” the BTS notes.
For more information or to begin planning a trip, visit AAA.com/Travel.
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