Airlines backing off on peak-travel surcharges

Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — In a break for travelers, airlines have cut the number of days this holiday season on which they add a surcharge for flying during peak travel periods.

Delta, American, United and Continental confirmed Friday that they're adding the surcharge to six days during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays. That's down from about two dozen last year, according to the price-tracking website FareCompare.com

Surcharges range from $20 to $40 each way and apply to many flights on Nov. 27 and 28, Dec. 22, 23 and 26 and Jan. 2, according to the airlines.

US Airways, however, has surcharges on 18 days in November and December, according to FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney. The airline did not immediately return messages for comment.

Tom Parsons, CEO of travel website BestFares.com, who first spotted the changes, said the cutback in surcharges will help travelers find affordable trips if they're flexible on travel days.

Deals listed Friday for around Thanksgiving — but avoiding the surcharge days — include Dallas-Los Angeles round trips starting at $219, and Washington-Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Denver-San Diego for under $190. Some trips would involve a seven-day stay, one-stop flights rather than non-stops, and outgoing and return flights on different airlines that have code-sharing agreements.

"I can't remember seeing stuff this low, and we don't even have an airfare war going on," Parsons said.

The airlines declined to comment on why they reduced the frequency of surcharges, but analysts say signs indicate that leisure travelers may be cutting back because they're worried about the economy.

Most major U.S. airlines recently raised some fares by up to $10 per round trip, but they were mostly on last-minute tickets usually sold to corporate travelers, not vacationers.

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