Cheap Airfare a Thing of the Past

Jennifer and Waverly Nakashima i i

hide captionJennifer Nakashima and her daughter, Waverly, may not be able to visit family in Hawaii this Christmas because airline tickets have become too expensive.

Jennifer and Waverly Nakashima

Jennifer Nakashima and her daughter, Waverly, may not be able to visit family in Hawaii this Christmas because airline tickets have become too expensive.

Air travel has gotten more expensive as the price of fuel has increased. That has many families reconsidering whether to buy plane tickets for the holidays.

For Jennifer Nakashima, months of searching on Travelocity have yet to yield affordable airline tickets for her family to fly from Maryland to Hawaii.

Nakashima had hoped to spend Christmas and New Year's in Hawaii so that her parents, aunts and uncles could visit with her 2-year-old daughter, Waverly. The last time she was there, her daughter couldn't walk or talk. Nakashima has been trying to score a deal since June.

Nakashima has developed a Travelocity ritual: Over months of searching for tickets, she has raised the spending limit and changed the dates she uses in her search parameters. Even so, she hasn't found anything she thinks is at all reasonable.

Terry Trippler, an airfare analyst in Minneapolis and owner of www.tripplertravel.com, said Nakashima needs to wake up to the new commercial aviation reality: Fares are up, service is down.

There are many reasons for that: the uncertainty of the world economy, airlines shifting seats to international flights, and rising fuel costs.

"The bottom line is fuel. That's No. 1," Trippler said. "Demand has something to do with it, too. As long as the people are buying it, the airlines will continue to increase fares."

Uglier and Uglier

Unlike Nakashima, it seems many are willing to pay higher fares. Trippler said that in the past, when costs went up, the airlines would try to pass some of that off on the consumer. And people would balk.

"That's not happening now," Trippler said. "They're booking at almost record numbers, and we just don't see it slowing down at all."

Indeed, the Gattens of suburban Washington, D.C., are still going on their annual trip to California and Utah. But grandparents in Utah and California had better be ready to open the door to some grumpy, red-eyed children.

Annette Gatten says because of high fares, their trip is just getting uglier and uglier.

"We're flying into San Francisco. Then we'll have to rent a car and drive about five hours north to my parents' house. And then from there, we'll have to drive to Utah, which I think is probably 10 or 11 hours. And then we will fly home from Utah," Gatten said. All of that — with four children in tow.

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