Airfares lower than one year ago, officials say

Maureen McCarney stood in line Tuesday with her 10-year-old daughter, Michaela Sweet, at the Frontier Airlines gate at Grand Junction Regional Airport, about to see her off to spend a holiday in Denver with her father.

She gushed about the airfare deal she got when she booked the flight two weeks ago.

“I paid $337 this time,” she said, while in the line of 20. “I’ve paid as much as $600 to fly her there before, so it was pretty good.”

She’s among many local passengers this season who said they noticed that if they booked approximately two to three weeks ago, rather than sooner, a slew of airfare deals poured in.

Airfares are about 25 to 30 percent lower than they were one year ago around the holidays, said Rex Tippetts,
general manager of the airport.

Some officials point to the somewhat meek projections for holiday travel. The Air Transport Association of
America, which represents commercial carriers, said earlier this season that holiday travel will be down by 10 percent. AAA projected a 1.47 percent decrease. Some speculate the lower fares are because of declining fuel prices.

With two additional airlines this year at Grand Junction Regional, officials said it’s anything but a normal year, and the airport is not projected to experience a let-up in passenger traffic.

“We’re running full up to Thanksgiving,” Tippetts said. “Thanksgiving and Friday are light. Then flights fill back up on Saturday and Sunday.”

There’s no straight formula for finding the deals, he said: “Where Delta may be cheaper to Seattle than United, United might be cheaper to Chicago. They each may be less expensive to certain destinations. Where Allegiant to Vegas is the cheapest there is, they don’t go anywhere else.”

Maria Reynolds of Colorado West Travel & Tours agency in Grand Junction said holiday fares she has seen from Grand Junction include $318 to Detroit, $288 to San Diego and $338 to Washington D.C.

Lindsey Pures, a spokeswoman for Frontier, said the airline keeps its fares competitive.

“In general, when you’re in the competitive environment and obviously the price of fuel is going down and the economy is in a downturn, that all has an effect on where prices are at,” Pures said

Tim Smith, spokesman for United Airlines, said many of its holiday rates are on the company’s Web site.

“Bookings have been fairly strong, particularly out of Grand Junction,” Smith said. “We always say people who are flexible with their holiday plans, and have the ability to shop around and go at alternative times can do very well.”

Fred Penoyer, 53, rolled his wife Rosemary’s luggage up to the United Airlines gate. He had booked his wife’s flight so she could spend Thanksgiving with her son in Seattle.

“I checked every Web site,” Penoyer said. He went with Orbitz.com, which got him a $333 deal for her through Denver, he said. “It turned out, if she stayed the weekend, we’d get a better rate.”

Otherwise, he said, the original fare he’d seen with her returning before the weekend was more than $500.

Tippetts said he advised passengers to arrive for departure about 90 minutes to two hours earlier than the flight with longer lines expected.


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