It’s the end of the year and we can look forward to some good news for travel in 2014. We expect to see lots of sales for the slow winter season, which is a nice way to start off the year.
There are a number of periods of the year when travelers pay a premium and those are Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, spring break and summer.
The periods that come after these peak times offer some great prices and January and February, when everyone goes back to work and school, are some of slowest months of year. We should also see deals during March, excluding spring break. This year Easter is on April 20, so we’ll see travel bargains after the holiday through Memorial Day.
If you are heading to Europe, fares in summer, from June to early August, will cost $500-$700 more than off-peak prices. Because Easter falls in April, the shoulder season does not kick in until March 28, so the low winter season is longer this year.
If you can get on airplane before March 27, you should find the lowest airfares to Europe that we’ll see until next November, You can even find some decent fares during spring break. If you travel through March 27, a family of four could save $2,000-$3,000 roundtrip over summer rates. Your airfare, hotel and food combined could be cheaper than airfare alone in July.
Another tip for Europe is to do comparison shopping with fares out of Houston because many fares are $200-$400 cheaper than Dallas fares. For example, at press time the roundtrip fare for travel to Rome in April, was $1,249 from Dallas, but only $899 from Houston. That’s a savings of $350 per person.
The third low season we’ll see is sometime after August 18 in Texas, when kids head back to school. In other parts of the country it may be later because school starts later. This period will last up until Thanksgiving and we’ll also see bargains during the two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
If you’ve ever wanted to fly up front, you can find some bargain rates this winter. We are seeing $300-$500 discounts on roundtrip first class fares to select Caribbean, Central America and Mexico destinations.
For example, we found a roundtrip fare for travel February 4-11 from Dallas to Cancun for $658 in first class. This was one of the cheapest first class fares I’ve seen to Cancun in many moons. Most of the fares to Central America, even San Jose, Costa Rica, are averaging in the high $700’s to low $800’s for first class, which is only about $200 more than coach.
While there are some first class sale fares available in January, we are seeing lots of availability for travel in February. Remember you do get three bags in first class so if you want to bring a lot of baggage, the fees for checking three bags roundtrip, plus your coach class ticket, would likely be more than the first class fare.
A great piece of news for 2014 is that in October the Wright Amendment restrictions on nonstop flights out of Love Field will go away. Southwest will be able to offer nonstop flights anywhere in the Continental U.S. and I expect to see nonstops from Dallas to Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and many other cities.
We’ve seen Southwest put ads out for new nonstop routes five to six months in advance and we should see intro fares on these new nonstop flights. Don’t be surprised to see some of the prices of nonstop intro fares come down further. When Southwest started flying between Dallas and Wichita it offered $198 roundtrip intro fares, but lately fares on that route have been as low as $138 roundtrip.
How will the other airlines respond to the new Southwest routes and airfares? For sure everyone will match, unless they already have lower airfares. We could also see some competing airlines offer sale fares in September, before Southwest can fly on those routes, especially competing airlines with 1-stop service on same routes and we could see American do it on nonstop flights.
In 2013 Southwest offered three wild and crazy sales and we expect to see them again this year. The first was in February, for travel from April through early June, the second in June, for travel from the end of August through mid-December, and the third in October, for travel between Thanksgiving and Christmas and for travel in winter 2015.
When I say wild and crazy, these fares were as low as $98 roundtrip, including Dallas to Corpus Christi, New Orleans and Harlingen. Today, the cheapest roundtrip to Harlingen is approximately $300, so you can see that’s quite a savings. We’ll keep you posted at Bestfares.com on when to keep a lookout on these sales.
While American and US Airways have completed their deal to merge, it will take months and months before the two airlines become one airline. Many people think the airfares will go up because of the merger, but I think once we get past the summer of 2014, there will be a lot of things happening in Dallas that will keep fares from rising. The most important is the Wright Amendment restrictions flying away and we could see fare war after fare war.
2014 will offer some great airfares if you are flexible with your travel dates, but if you want to travel when the kids are out of school, expect to pay a premium. That’s just the plane facts, Jack.
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