Holiday air travelers pay dearly

Fares from GJ to Denver up to $1,000 for walk-ups

If you took a flight home for Thanksgiving, it probably means one of two things: You love your family enough to fork over the extra fees for flying at this time of the year, or family members bought your ticket.

The situation was the latter for Meagan Seluidge, a 20-year-old sophomore at Mesa State College.

Seluidge, who plays basketball for the college, didn’t have the money to buy an airline ticket home to Tulsa, Okla. Time, too, is not on her side as she only has four days off from practice.

“I would be, like, depressed,” she said, if she couldn’t have visited home.

She said she never has missed a Thanksgiving with family.

But unless airline travelers purchased tickets well in advance this year, flights to most destinations around the country are steeper than most remember.

For example, walking into the Grand Junction Regional Airport and buying a ticket from Grand Junction to Denver can set you back $1,000, Airport Manager Rex Tippetts said.

“It’s getting to the point of ticket prices become alarming to us,” he said.

It used to be that airline travelers could expect to book a decent price on a flight 30 days out. Tippetts said the new timetable for the best rates are more like 45 days in advance.

Fares available Wednesday ranged from $700 to more than $1,000 for Thanksgiving weekend travel from Grand Junction to a few major city destinations. According to fare-finding Web site http://www.expedia.com, the cheapest fares for travelers between Wednesday and Sunday were $989 to Chicago; $932 to New York; $1,143 to Miami; and $700 to Seattle. Those prices dipped for travel over the Christmas holiday, between Dec. 22-28, showing $406 to Chicago; $677 to New York; $710 to Miami and $504 to Seattle.

Airplanes from Grand Junction have seating for about 700 people a day, and all flights were nearly filled Wednesday. However, the number of flights to the local airport doesn’t increase during peak times, Tippetts said. That’s largely why the airport on Wednesday saw a steady stream of travelers, but wasn’t the hectic jumble of travelers you might expect for one of the busiest airline travel days of the year.

Denver International Airport will be an entirely different scene as the airport expects 960,000 passengers this weekend, with Sunday projected to be the busiest travel day of the year as passengers return from their destinations.

According to Colorado’s Automobile Association of America (AAA), it appears more Americans, an expected 33.2 million, decided this year to hit the road for holiday travel. Last year, 32.5 million Americans drove to Thanksgiving with family and friends. In comparison, an expected 2.3 million traveled by air this year, down from 2.5 million last year, AAA reported.

High-priced airline tickets didn’t keep Grand Junction couple Tess McInnis and Matt Canterbury from taking a flight Wednesday from Grand Junction Regional Airport. However, family members footed the nearly $1,000 price tag for them to fly to Omaha, Neb.

Without receiving the tickets as a gift, they would have stayed home.

“I don’t think we’d have been able to afford it,” McInnis said while winding through a line for security.


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