Airline Prices Stay Up Despite Fewer Travelers

The airline industry expects that fewer Americans will travel by air this year over the Thanksgiving holiday. The still-sluggish economy is lessening demand for air travel, but it's not dropping prices. Those who do fly for Thanksgiving will still find their flights packed.

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The sluggish economy means fewer travelers will be heading home for Thanksgiving this year, although it hasn't brought down prices. And as NPR's David Schaper reports, those who do fly will still find their flights packed.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The airline industry has been climbing its way out of a deep red hole this year. Revenue is up, but costs - especially for fuel - are up even more. Still, most commercial airlines are on track to eke out a small profit, as the industry heads into its busiest period: the 12 days around Thanksgiving. But...

STEVE LOTT: We actually expect a 2 percent drop in the number of travelers taking to the skies this Thanksgiving holiday period.

SCHAPER: Steve Lott is with the Air Transport Association.

LOTT: The drop in air travel largely has to do with the state of the economy, and unfortunately, we're still seeing weak consumer confidence.

SCHAPER: Normally, weaker demand might lead to empty seats and lower prices. Not so, says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com.

RICK SEANEY: The problem is the number of seats that airlines have removed from the system year over year is much higher than two percent. So basically, planes are completely full.

SCHAPER: And fares, he says, are going up.

SEANEY: We're talking ticket prices for Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays up about 7 to 8 percent.

SCHAPER: But Seaney says there still are a few deals out there, especially for those willing to fly Thanksgiving Day, and the airlines are still on track to finish the year ever-so-slightly in the black. David Schaper, NPR News.

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