Sky-high airfares scuttle holiday travel plans
Darcy Wintonyk and Lynda Steele, CTV British Columbia
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:10PM PST
A shortage of airline seats this holiday season is causing sky-high prices, forcing some B.C. travellers to scuttle their holiday travel plans this Christmas.
Vancouver resident Tara Lantz was horrified to see that a round-trip ticket to fly home to see her family in Halifax in December would cost $1,900 – nearly three times the price she paid three years ago.
“You could fly to southeast Asia [for that]. You can fly halfway around the world for that,” Lantz told CTV’s Steele on Your Side.
WestJet has sold two-and-a-half times more flights this holiday season than it did last year and travelers are booking faster and earlier than ever before, says spokesman Robert Palmer.
"Demand is significantly higher than it's ever been before. We've experienced three consecutive months of record load factors, which means we're flying fuller flights than we ever have in our history,” Palmer told CTV News in Calgary.
WestJet says its holiday fares are exactly the same.
"The difference is that we're so much further along in terms of the number of seats that people have booked -- so the early bird has got the worm here,” said Palmer.
Lantz doesn’t buy it. She booked a round-trip ticket to Halifax in 2009 for $650. The lowest price for this year’s trip was $1,300, which she saw in early October.
Air Canada declined an interview with CTV News.
The best time to book a holiday flight is three to six months beforehand, says Allison Wallace of Flight Centre.
"It’s all about supply and demand. So if you're going to be travelling during a high season or a peak season there aren't really any last minute deals. You really want to be thinking ahead,” she said.
Don’t fly on a weekend day if possible, Wallace says, and try to avoid peak travel dates within the peak holiday season, such as the days kids are back in school.
Lantz is planning to avoid the Canadian airlines altogether, and catch a flight in Seattle instead. Her round-trip ticket to Halifax on United is $800 return. Even after the cost of a shuttle, it’s close to $1,100 less.
She defends her choice to boycott the Canadian airlines.
"They’re being unpatriotic by essentially gouging us on these prices,” she said.
Both WestJet and Air Canada have posted high revenues this year because of higher prices and traffic. Both airlines flew with record percentages of their seats full this fall.
Research by the travel booking site Orbitz found that average airfares for flights during the holidays are expected to be five to eight per cent higher than last year in the U.S.