Airport bracing for holiday crushBy Sarah Haughey
Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes might be hard to come by for Bay Area families this year.
Visiting your family might not only break the bank, but also cause a rise in blood pressure as San Francisco International Airport is expected to be the fifth-busiest hub in the nation this Thanksgiving, according to Orbitz Worldwide rankings.
SFO is projecting a 4 percent rise in the number of people traveling this Thanksgiving compared to last year, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.
The increase might in part be due to pent-up travel demand from those who stayed home for the holidays last year, said Rick Seaney, CEO of www.farecompare.com, a website that compares airline ticket prices.
Going through airport security is never a breeze, but after the Oct. 29 bomb scare involving two suspicious packages on UPS cargo planes, security measures were heightened again. However, McCarron said he is not anticipating any delays for SFO travelers.
"We will be fully staffed both in airline and TSA employees," McCarron said. "As long as there are no weather issues here or across the country, we shouldn't see any problems."
There is good news for those looking to travel at a more relaxed pace, as Oakland International and San Jose International airports are ranked in Orbitz Worldwide's top 10 least busy Thanksgiving hubs.
"SFO was more than four times busier in 2010 than both SJC and OAK combined," Orbitz spokesman David Cumpston said. "This is the second year in a row that SFO has been among the top five busiest in the nation for Thanksgiving - it's No. 5 this year and was No. 4 last year."
While there is no guarantee that travelers will avoid holiday crowds, Oakland and San Jose should be easier to navigate compared to SFO, Cumpston said.
"Don't limit your search for flights to only your closest local airport," said Jeanenne Tornatore, Orbitz senior travel editor.
"Expand your search options to include airports within a reasonable radius and you'll find yourself with more flight and price options."
Avoiding the busiest travel days - Nov. 25 and 28 - will save travelers both time and money.
"By leaving SFO Wednesday and coming back Sunday, your airfare will nearly double," said Tom Parsons, founder of www.bestfares.com. "You'll pay pretty costly premiums for those busy days."
Fares increase from last year, but travel dates save money
Holiday memories are priceless, but the cost of experiencing those memories is going up.
Last year's airfare was relatively low due to the recession, so airlines are making up for it this year. Holiday ticket prices have increased 17 percent from the same time in 2009, according to Rick Seaney, CEO of www.farecompare.com.
"As the airlines see more people either not buying or holding off on purchasing tickets, they hike the fares knowing that people will eventually break down and buy their tickets home for the holidays," said Claire Dalby, travel editor for www.bestfares.com.
The recession caused airlines to not only take away free pretzels, but also to pull seats. Fewer seats coupled with high demand leads to steeper prices for travelers.
The average ticket price per person for flight itineraries departing San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 24 and returning Nov. 28 is $624.
By switching the dates to Nov. 22 through 26, the average ticket price drops to $368. Travelers looking to fly Thanksgiving Day will see substantially cheaper tickets. For an itinerary departing Nov. 25 and returning Nov. 30, the average ticket price per person is $323.
Copyright ©2010 San Francisco Examiner. Published 11/09/2010.