Down to the wire: Why experts say airline seats may be hard to get as Thanksgiving and Christmas near

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INDIANAPOLIS — If you’re still thinking about booking that Thanksgiving or Christmas flight, experts say it’s getting down to the wire.

Prices are already higher than last year and are only expected to soar as the days narrow down.

“Planning for 2021, for Christmas and Thanksgiving, you’re pretty late,” said Alex Kutin, owner of Travel Leaders Indy. “All you’re going to do now is see prices continue to rise.”

Kutin, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years, says they can start selling airline tickets and making reservations as far as 10 months to a year in advance. Right now, he says clients are already planning travel for next summer.

As far as Thanksgiving is concerned, Hopper’s 2021 Holiday Travel Guide shows the average domestic round-trip flight is priced at about $300. That’s a 23% increase compared to 2020. International round-trip average shows about $620, which experts consider a historic low, at about 11% lower than last year.

If you’re waiting it out, Hopper says your best bet for a decently priced flight is to book no later than Halloween.

Leading up to the week of Thanksgiving, Hopper predicts domestic flights to surge by 40%, or about $400 round-trip. That’s along with another 25% jump during the holiday week, or about $500 round-trip. International round-trips could surge to about $820, or 32% more, during the week of Thanksgiving.

Kutin says booking your ticket so late in the game may be risky as airline seats are fewer this time around.

“There’s very limited airline seats that are available because the airlines have not gotten back to full capacity as of to date, and so there’s less planes in the air,” he said, “and so the airports are going to be very, very busy.”

Hopper also predicts TSA will see about 1.9 million travelers for the holiday, which is about double from last year’s 900,000.

That estimate looks to be on pace with current TSA trends. TSA.gov’s checkpoint travel numbers, which is updated daily at 9 a.m., shows about 1.6 million travelers passing through on 10/20/21 compared to last year’s 694,000.

“People haven’t been able to travel for the past two years, and so everybody is really wanting to get out and travel and this year is going to be extremely busy,” Kutin said. “Patience is going to be the best virtue for it too, and to go to the airport with plenty of time prior to your takeoff time so that you’re able to get through the TSA.”

For Christmas, Hopper says the deadline to book is no later than Thanksgiving. Experts say Christmas looks to be the busier holiday out of the two with prices already up 30% to 55% for international and domestic round-trip flights. Hopper’s TSA prediction shows about 2 million travelers daily, about double to last year’s 1 million.

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