Olympic-Sized Fare Hikes This Summer Make It Important To Book Early

The Wall Street Journal
By Scott McCartney

Summer vacations are coming up with Olympic-caliber price increases this year.

This week’s Middle Seat (click here to read) looks at how the combination of high oil prices, reduced airline capacity, an improving economy and big events like the London Summer Olympics have pushed the cost of summer travel way up. Fares to Europe, in particular, have shocked some shoppers, with prices up on average 11% over last year, according to searches on Kayak.com, and some trans-Atlantic round-trips currently priced at $3,000 or more.

Summer tickets from the U.S. to Paris priced in January were 22% higher than ticket prices in January 2011, according to Kayak. London was up 14%, and travel experts say as we get closer to the Summer Olympics, which run July 27 to Aug. 12 in London and are likely to draw many vacationers to Europe, prices will go much higher.

There has been a bit of a price pullback in the past two weeks, travel agencies report. Shoppers may be balking at higher prices or making plans to vacation at destinations with cheaper airfares. There are deals to be had at beach destinations, especially in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Ticket prices between Los Angeles and Philadelphia for this summer are down about 20% compared to summer bookings at this time last year, thanks in part to new flights from Virgin America. Bookings for summer travel on that route are up about 80%, Travelocity said.

All that likely means this is a good time to book your summer vacation if you haven’t already done so, especially if you want to head to Europe (and most especially if you want to go to the Olympics). When supply of airline seats exceeds demand, it’s often good to wait for big sales closer to departure. But this year, like last year, the opposite is true: airlines have trimmed out more capacity, and demand likely will exceed supply. As planes fill up, the price goes up. Waiting to buy likely means paying a lot more for your tickets.

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