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High Airfares for Good?

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This is The Savvy Traveler. I'm Rudy Maxa. Usually, I avoid buying airline tickets on weekends. That's when airlines often post new fares, then watch to see if their competitors match. If they don't, prices usually drop back on Monday.

Last week though, the airlines raised fares... and they stuck! Business travelers, or anyone else who can't buy a ticket more than three days before traveling, now pay an extra $50 on flights less than 1,500 miles, $100 on flights over that. That, of course, is on top of fuel surcharges added about six weeks ago.

Now, this doesn't affect most of us because the majority of travelers buy tickets more than three days in advance. But don't get too comfortable. Right now, airlines face new demands for higher wages. United gave its pilots a nearly 30 percent pay hike in September and that's become the new benchmark for United's mechanics who are still getting 1994 wages. Back then, they took a cut to try to dig the airline out of the red. United's flight attendants, too, want a raise, as do mechanics at Northwest. And pilots at Delta and Continental are seeking a deal similar to United's pilots.

So, what's it all mean? Essentially, the cost of flying will go up. Now, I'm of two minds on this. The first is that flying is still a relative bargain. Just look at the number of people in planes these days. The second, however, is that I would hope with increased revenue, airlines would hire enough people and train them in the concept of service so flying could become more pleasant.

How will it all play out? Here's my short-term outlook: informational picketing by workers at airports, possible slowdowns and flight cancellations. Mid-term? Possible strikes. And long term: Higher prices for tickets.

Buckle up!

{ Rudy's View Index }


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