Air fares may disappoint bargain hunters 

Local travelers scouring the Internet for summertime airline deals should book now if they spot a fair price — holding out for a better fare might offer more anxiety than savings, experts say.

While airlines have begun rolling out a bevy of summer sales in recent weeks, don’t expect ongoing trepidation about the economy to reduce ticket prices to the levels seen during the height of the recession, said Terry Trippler, a travel industry analyst.

Pent-up demand for air travel seems to be emerging as penny-pinching families look to splurge in the coming months, Trippler said.

“Being thrifty was the in-thing,” Trippler said. “They’re now saying, ‘I’m tired of being thrifty, let’s go out and blow [money] on something.’”

Conservative estimates for coast-to-coast flights from the Bay Area for peak-summer trips have airfares rising 10 to 20 percent midweek and up to 50 percent on weekends from their current rate, said Tom Parsons, CEO of Bestfares.com.

“Domestically, airlines have cut capacity and they seem to have that capacity-demand thing working,” Trippler said.

The cost for short-hop trips within California will likely remain relatively stable, with possibly a slight uptick, due to the many flights in the corridor, he said.

However, tickets for international flights are expected to go nowhere but up, Trippler said.

Demand for international flights grew 9.5 percent in February, according to the International Air Transport Association.

“In two to three months, the industry should be back to pre-recession traffic levels,” IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani said in a
statement.

So don’t think you can wait until the last minute to find a hot deal, a tactic that worked during the heart of the recession, Trippler said.

Travelers should be on the Web hunting right now — particularly with all the new sales emerging, he said. Waiting a month for an extra $25 discount may not be worth it, because it may never come, he added.


The cost of flying coast to coast

Not all cross-country flights are created equal.

San Francisco International Airport to New York LaGuardia Airport

  • Leaving on a Tuesday in July and returning the following Tuesday (round trip, one stop each way): $651
  • Leaving on a Friday in July and returning the following Friday (round trip, one stop each way): $761
  • Leaving on a Friday in July and returning the following Sunday (roundtrip, one stop each way): $926

Source: Bestfares.com

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