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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Fewer flights limit good holiday deals

 •  Flights to be cut Dec. 1
 •  Hawai'i holiday bookings more sluggish than usual

By Chris Woodyard and Dan Reed
USA Today

Airfare deals are going, going but not quite gone for Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays, even though many airlines have reduced the number of planes they are flying.

And holiday leisure fares, while slightly higher than after the Sept. 11 attacks, remain much lower than in 2000, say Southwest, Northwest and Continental.

"The world is on sale today" for holiday travel, says Tim Griffin, executive vice president of Northwest Airlines.

But the supply of seats could dry up quickly. A third of holiday fliers, and about 60 percent of frequent travelers, book a month or more ahead of time, notes Teri Franklin, product manager for online travel booking site Expedia.

Complicating bookings this year is the fact that most major carriers are shrinking, leaving fewer seats for holiday travelers.

For example, American — the nation's largest airline — has cut 13 percent of its seats since 2000.

Airline capacity overall has shrunk 8 percent since September 2000, hurt by cutbacks in business and leisure travel in the wake of the terrorist attacks and the economic slowdown, the Air Transport Association reports.

That is a factor in the best bargains for those who can leave early or stay late during the Thanksgiving rush.

For instance, a Continental Airlines round trip from Newark, N.J., to Los Angeles leaving the day before Thanksgiving and returning the following Monday was $285 last week on Orbitz.com.

While travel agents say flights to Hawai'i are almost fully booked for the holiday season, many Caribbean destinations are still available.

David Ewing, an international business consultant based in Miami, says he's on a waiting list to fly to Hawai'i using frequent-flier miles.

So far, no luck.