Airlines Slash Ticket Prices to Fill Seats

Travelers looking to getaway at the last second for the Christmas and New Year's holidays just got a bit of good news: the major airlines have dropped their advance purchase requirements through Jan. 4. Tickets for the holiday period that were more than a thousand dollars yesterday are now just a few hundred, according to Tom Parsons, CEO of BestFares.com.

And there's even more good news for travelers: the airlines have cut prices through March, Parsons said, trying to fill seats during traditionally one of the slowest travel periods of the year.

Parsons said that the advance purchase rules -- basically those fare structures that require 21-day or 14-day advance purchases to get the best prices -- are geared toward getting the most money out of business travelers who often book tickets hours in advance. But now during the holidays, most business travelers are staying home and that airlines are looking for passengers to fill those seats, at any price.

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"Anything they can put on their plane now is just gravy or icing on the cake," Parsons told ABC News.

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The airlines that waived their holiday advance purchase requirements, Parson said, are: American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, US Airways, Frontier Airlines, AirTran Airways and Midwest Airlines.

Parsons said he personally was looking at a flight on American Airlines between Dallas and New York City yesterday and saw it for $1,858 roundtrip. Today, that same route is as low as $388 roundtrip.

The Cheapest Days to Fly

From Atlanta to Seattle, Delta Airlines no advance purchase airfares sold yesterday for $1,198 roundtrip. Today, you can fly for as low as $258 roundtrip.

"The airlines are in the need to raise as much cash as they can," Parsons said.

On the West Coast, he said, there are flights between San Francisco and Los Angles, San Diego and Las Vegas going for as little as $39 for the Christmas period.

"There are still some travel gems out there," he said.

For travelers looking a bit more long term, Parsons said the systemwide sale fare right now is offering some great bargains.

Parsons said that discount airlines like Southwest and JetBlue have offered such sales, but that it has been nearly a year since the legacy airlines have had a systemwide sale.

"This sale has actually been extended to all the small regional airports that usually don't get invited and haven't had any good deals all year long," he said.

But act fast. Some of these sales are one-day promotions and others will have the cheapest seats go fast. Parsons said it is likely that the airlines might offer more sales in the coming days as they try to fill seats for this winter.

For people still looking to travel during Christmas, Parsons suggested looking to fly today or on Dec. 17, 25, or Jan. 1 and Jan. 4. Those will be the cheapest days.

The next cheapest – about 30 percent more expensive – are Dec. 18, 20, 21, 24, 30 and 31. Following that are seats that are about 55 percent higher than the cheapest dates. Those are: Dec. 19, 22, 23, 26, 28 and 29. Finally, Parsons suggest avoiding Dec. 27, Jan. 2 and Jan. 3. These travel dates have not been included in the holiday airfare sale, therefore they could be significantly more expensive.

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