Summer Ends Early, Airlines Offer Deals

VIDEO: Will relief at the pump lead to lower prices for other consumer goods?

Guess what? Summer ends early this year: on Aug. 22, to be precise. At least it does according to the calendars the airlines use. And that's good news for you.

If you haven't had a chance to plan a trip yet or you've decided your only option is a staycation, congratulations are in order. You were clever enough to wait for the "magic departure date" that ushers in a season of savings. You might also save yourself an X-rated adventure in the security line (and more on that in just a bit).

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Maybe there's nothing inherently magic about Aug. 23, but it is the date many airlines have settled on this year to mark the beginning of their fall season; fall, of course, is when airfare prices start to drop and sometimes even plummet.

Note to shoppers: Many airlines begin their fall season (for departures, remember) on Aug. 23, while others start on Aug. 24. To figure out your airline's sweet spot for savings, use an airfare shopping site with a flexible date option so you don't miss out these deals.

There's definitely a method to this madness: Airlines spend millions to learn passengers' purchasing habits, and they know that most opt for summer vacation flights from late June through mid-August, and will pay whatever it costs to fly then.

Well, almost. A couple of summertime airfare hikes fizzled this year, but in general, summer is peak season for U.S. carriers and that's when they rake in the bucks. Until mid- to late-August, that is.

It doesn't take an Einstein to figure it out. In many parts of the country, kids head back to school in late August. Likewise, many potential passengers use the last weeks of summer to do all those chores they kept putting off. I mean, who wants to clean out the garage in July when you could be barbequing or watching the latest Harry Potter flick?

By the way, airlines aren't the only ones ready for autumn. I just heard a colleague complaining last week (yes, in July) that the window of her local Jo-Ann craft store was filled with Halloween decorations.

Which is what the airlines are doing, metaphorically speaking: They are getting ready for autumn. Consider the most recent big Southwest sale: good for travel beginning Aug. 24. Virgin America's last sale? Good for travel starting Aug. 23. Savings vary from a little to a lot.

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