Whenever I plan a trip that requires air travel, I usually start tracking airfares right away. My next planned trip includes air travel from San Luis Obispo, CA to Venice, Italy. The cruise from Venice was booked last June for departure this coming August. Since most airlines do not sell tickets more than 330 days in advance, I had to wait until last September to start tracking airfares for this trip.
It has been my experience that airfares generally rise as holidays approach. I saw this familiar rise last year as we approached the Christmas holiday. I have never purchased airline tickets 10 months in advance, so the low fares in September did not convince me to buy early. I expected that they would drop after the first of the new year. What was really surprising was that, after Christmas, the airfares just kept going up. In the first week of February, I’d seen enough. I decided that, even though prices were higher than I saw last September, I didn’t believe they would be going down anytime soon.
I did notice an interesting fact. It turns out that it cost only $14 more per ticket to fly from San Luis Obispo to Venice than it cost to fly from San Francisco to Venice. Since I live 30 minutes from the San Luis Obispo Airport and 3-1/2 hours from the San Francisco Airport, it was $14 per ticket well spent. In February, round trip airfare from San Luis Obispo to Venice on United Airlines was $1,888 per ticket. Today, I checked the same itinerary and the airfare is now $2,290 per ticket. I saved a little over $1,600 on 4 tickets by not waiting to buy.
There is a web site I found to be very useful in watching airfares. It is ITA Software Matrix Search at matrix.itasoftware.com. Their search engine will search all major air carriers. I was checking airfares more than once a day and this web site allowed me to see when prices changed. Then I could go directly to web site of the particular airline I was tracking.
I rarely check sites like Expedia or Travelocity. When I pay for an airline ticket, I want to know which airline I’m on, I want to know that I have enough time to make connections, and I want to be able to have the airline fix things if something doesn’t go right. I’m sure a lot of people have good luck using the travel sites to book airfares. I’m not willing to take the chance that, if a problem develops, I might have the airline and the travel site pointing fingers at each other claiming the problem is the other’s responsibility.
It’s inevitable that airfares will eventually be too expensive for the average traveler like me. Here’s hoping it gets to that point later than sooner.