Travelers need not book their Thanksgiving reservations just yet. Those looking to catch a flight for the long weekend can choose one of dozens of flights from a number of participating carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines, Virgin America, and Allegiant Air.
With last-minute ticket deals filling the marketplace, Thanksgiving travel experts recommend making your travel plans even earlier. Randy Petersen, founder of travel review site Airfarewatchdog.com, tells FoxNews.com that consumers are increasingly booking flights well in advance due to the rising cost of flight tickets due to low fuel prices, increased passenger demand and increased competition.
“The price of an average domestic roundtrip ticket has grown roughly 4.5 percent since the beginning of the year, yet ticket prices are essentially flat during Thanksgiving 2015 and flat year over year during the holiday season from Thanksgiving 2014,” Petersen said.
In the period between Tuesday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, Petersen noted that airfares are at all-time lows compared to last year. American Airlines offers only one roundtrip holiday fare sale, starting at $258 to New York and $142 to Boston. (http://bit.ly/2FCyp2Y)
As of Tuesday, the cheapest domestic roundtrip fares start at $262 on Delta and $108 on JetBlue. On United, select routes are starting at $157.
Hurricane season impacts travel
All travelers have at least one fear on their minds during Thanksgiving travel: the potential storm. The National Weather Service issued a hurricane and winter storm watch for parts of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic region with the potential for two tropical storms and two to four inches of snow in areas of the Gulf Coast.
Petersen warned holiday travelers not to make the decision of whether to fly based on weather reports.
“More likely than not, travelers will be weather impacted, and cancel their flights should they be delayed or canceled,” he said.
Additionally, Petersen noted that check-in times can be longer than expected if airports are forced to close on bad weather days, particularly if the airlines do not allow for a free change if a flight is canceled.
One major holiday destination that was closed due to hurricane season last year was the USS Reagan. The guided-missile destroyer was supposed to anchor off the coast of Florida for Thanksgiving 2015. However, a weather storm south of Miami forced the Navy ship to make a port visit in Norfolk, Virginia, about 3,500 miles from home.
Which days to go?
While prices for Thanksgiving flights have historically spiked in the last two weeks of October and early November, they are hovering close to the lowest they’ve been all year.
As of Tuesday, Petersen said the general trend for Thanksgiving travelers has been to avoid flying on Thanksgiving Day. Airfares there are typically highest, he said, as airlines aim to cleanse their systems of last-minute holiday travelers.
The next drop in holiday flight prices comes mid-November into December.
Petersen said when comparing travel deals, compare prices on airlines that are flying mostly out of U.S. cities and that can give a better indication of which days to travel. He said the New York City and Chicago airports have been particularly expensive on Thanksgiving since they were out of service for a long time after 9/11.
“I’ve never seen a better option in the market at any price,” he said.
However, he said when the travel is in markets like Chicago or Los Angeles, a flight from U.S. cities to destinations like Tokyo, Sydney or Hong Kong can still be made for less than $300 per person.
“The American people deserve affordable and fair air travel,” he said.