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October 22, 2021

You'd better buy airfare early this holiday season

The recession’s end should mean only good things.

A smidgen of job security might return, that pension hopefully comes trickling back and – maybe, just maybe – employers will start to hire people again.

But believe it or not, there are some downsides in the return to normal.

For one, you might’ve noticed that airfares over the past year or so have been marginally decent.

Last holiday season, you could procrastinate a bit and still find deals at the last minute. Airlines, ill-prepared for the steep fallout in travel, were forced to offer bargains to fill up empty planes.

Now, though? Your luck is about to change.

As the New York Times reports, waiting even a few days booking your holiday flight this year could result in a severe hit on your wallet.

“Travelers should be shopping now,” Joel Grus, who tracks airfares at Bing Travel, told the paper. “If a price seems good to them, they should get it.”

In the last week alone, fares for the busy U.S. Thanksgiving travel season rose an impressive 6%, with the most popular there-and-back itineraries going up by 10%.

While numbers for the Canadian holiday period aren’t available quite yet, they might not be much different.

According to the Times, airlines again have the big advantage in the “endless game of cat-and-mouse with travelers.” Because of the downturn, they have been grounding planes, therefore offering fewer seats to sell and giving themselves the power to set ridiculous prices.

Indeed, the number of domestic seats for sale is down 5% this month compared to October of 2008. And those numbers are down 21% from October of 2000.

What’s that mean?

“Essentially, that’s creating a seller’s market,” said one source, noting that if you want to travel on the cheap this holiday season, you’d better buy early and be flexible.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...