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How to find lower holiday airfares

An airplane

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: 'Twas two months before Christmas and what should appear but air fares climbing higher at just the wrong time of year! Or the right time, I guess, if you're an airline exec, who hopes to keep the bottom line from being a wreck. We've got just the ticket, though, to make it home with aplomb.

George Hobica keeps an eye things at Airfarewatchdog.com. George, welcome!

George Hobica: It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks Bob.

Moon: I'm going to be staying put for the holidays. How much do I represent the traveling public?

Hobica: Well I think if the fares stay as high as they are, then a lot of people are going to be staying put. We've been looking at certain routes and fares, and my God, they are so high on some routes. Just recently the fares seem to have spiked. But the thing is that if you wait, and if you're patient and you look and you shop and you search, you might find that fares are going to go down on certain routes.

Moon: And are there deals to be had out there?

Hobica: There are spot deals here and there. I can give you an example. We were looking at Newark, N.J., to San Francisco on Friday. And the fares were about $600. And then they went down, on Saturday, to about $400. And then on Sunday, the same route, non-stop flights with tax, were about $329. So fares are not static and the number of seats available at every lower fare is not static. They change all the time.

Moon: Well, I think that brings up a good question: Does the old rule of buying early still apply in the airline business or should you wait and see?

Hobica: What I'm telling people is that if you see a fare on a route where you want to go, and it's affordable to you, you might as well buy it. But if it's outrageous, I would wait. I think that they're going to have some sales. I think if you check fares once a day, twice a day, three times a day -- if you're really diligent -- you're going to find a deal.

Moon: Now if you are going to buy the ticket now, does that mean you're locking in the fare necessarily or will the airline still adjust that downward if the fare happens to go down?

Hobica: Well, there are still three airlines -- Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest -- that will give you a credit if the fare drops between the time you buy and the time you fly. The credit's in the form of a voucher, good for future travel. So if you want to hedge your bets, you might as well book and travel on those airlines, if you can.

Moon: Now you watch these things all the time. Give me some insider tips here. How can I know that I'm getting a good deal?

Hobica: I think people need to look at alternate airports and alternate airlines. For example, if you're flying from the Chicago area to Orlando, there's a little airline called Allegiant Airlines that flies from Rockford, Ill. to Orlando Sanford. And last time I looked, the fares on Allegiant for peak holiday travel were about $100 each way and they are $500 on the major airlines. So think of smaller airports, smaller airlines. Make sure you look at Southwest.com, which does not share its fares on the major third-party booking engines

Moon: Let me bring this full circle again, what are you noticing in terms of how many people are flying this year and particularly, around the holidays now?

Hobica: Well, the statistics say that fewer people are flying. The airlines have cut anywhere from 9 to 12 percent capacity, but statistics say, fewer people are actually getting on planes and there are fewer seats for them to get on anyway. So everything has gone down. So I think the best idea is to just shop around, wait until you see a great fare and then strike when you find a great fare.

Moon: George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com. Thank you for joining us.

Hobica: Thank you.

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