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Ticketing, baggage and fuel prices: Air travel facts and myths

When American announced bag fees in May, other carriers soon followed.

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When American announced bag fees in May, other carriers soon followed.

A friend and fellow reporter who covered the local development scene used to talk about a source who called Tampa "the land of announcements." His point: Check up later and see how many highly hyped deals actually pan out. Big changes in the airline business this year prompted all kinds of dire predictions about how travelers would suffer. Let's see how some nuggets of common wisdom held up to scrutiny.

Holiday tickets will be scarce as hen's teeth

Airlines cut schedules 10 percent or more this fall to eliminate unprofitable flights and boost fares. The conclusion: Travelers would struggle to find seats — particularly during busy year-end holidays — and pay through the nose if they do.

Ticket prices are higher this year, about 7.5 percent over 2007, according to the Air Transport Association, the major airlines' trade group. But the percentage of seats occupied over the holidays will be about the same, even with fewer flights. Why? Fewer travelers buying pricier tickets during scary economic times.

"There are still plenty of discount seats … but you have to be flexible," said David Castelveter, ATA spokesman. A round-trip fare from Tampa to New York sells for about $400 if you leave the day before Thanksgiving and come back the following Monday, two of the most popular travel days. But switch to a Thanksgiving Day flight and return the next Tuesday, and the price drops to $200.

Fees will lead to a carry-on bag meltdown

When major airlines imposed checked-luggage fees, experts said planes would be overwhelmed with travelers bringing more and bigger bags on board. They predicted fights breaking out for overhead bin space and delays as bags were moved into the cargo hold.

The volume of carry-ons increased somewhat. But airlines, the Transportation Security Administration and the largest flight attendants union agree any disruption has been minimal.

Carriers: Will fly for fuel

This was the line used to justify fuel surcharges on tickets as oil headed toward $150 a barrel. Fair enough.

You'd be shocked, or course, to learn that the steep drop in fuel prices hasn't translated into lower fuel surcharges. Round-trip international tickets still carry an extra charge of $200 to more than $500, USA Today reported Tuesday.

Ticketing, baggage and fuel prices: Air travel facts and myths 10/28/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 9:51pm]
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