Sept. 1, 2010 — -- One of my employees is flying cross-country this month, a quick trip to a travel trade show in Orlando. "Holy cow," she said, after pricing airfare. "This is going to cost you a bundle, boss."
Go ahead, I said, shoot the works. The "works" as it turned out, was almost $500 roundtrip.
Now, it probably would have been at least a little cheaper if she wasn't flying on a Sunday (the cheapest days to flyare usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday), and if she had the time to take a connecting flight as opposed to a nonstop, but -- well, sometimes you gotta fly when you gotta fly.
So, as noted, that airfare is nearly $500. Not cheap, but get used to it. Especially around the holidays. There are some indications of nightmare airfare pricing ahead. Some. But there is hope, too. Let me explain (and also tell you how to keep costs down).
Recently, I've noticed some ominous signs for consumers from the airlines:
1) Prices Trending Up -- Airfare prices right now for the cheapest roundtrip domestic travel this fall are up about 16 percent from last year, and up as much as 20 percent for travel to and from smaller cities.
2) Airfare Hikes -- Southwest instituted an airfare hike in August, for all of its routes (a hike quickly matched by other carriers); true, it was a small hike -- between $6 and $10 roundtrip -- but it was a price jump nevertheless, in a year where we've seen very few of those.
3) Fee Hikes -- AirTran recently raised its first checked-bag fee by $5 each-way.
4) Business Travel Momentum -- Corporate travel is trending up after more than a year of being in the dumper.
Let's dig a little deeper.
As for the bag fee jump, AirTran clearly thinks enough people will pay that extra five bucks (or $10 roundtrip). If you're keeping score, Delta kicked off this trend by raising its checked-bag fees around the first of the year, quickly followed by Continental and United.