Northwest Arkansas residents will have to work harder than usual to find great airfares as a pilot shortage, high fuel prices and a high demand for seats are driving up travel costs.
It couldn’t come at a worse time, either, as people decide where they’ll fly this summer.
FareFlightNWA reviewed flight schedules and fares of all airlines serving Northwest Arkansas National Airport. While there are fewer inexpensive fares to be had, there remains good pricing to many destinations.
We’d take these steps to increase the chances of finding an affordable fare to the leisure destinations in the next few months.
Travel + Leisure published a story in March that suggested the perfect time to book a domestic trip is 64 days before departure. That means a person who books this week will find the best deals on about July 6, give or take a few days.
The 64 days isn’t a hard rule; it’s an average. Your favored destination might be least expensive 54 days ahead of the trip, and someone else’s might be best at 68 days. The key is planning and then buying now for what you’ll be doing roughly two months.
To test the 64-day system, we did a Google Flights search and found the best low-cost trips ($200 or less roundtrip) for a one-week getaway that starts in July. The best deals were to Nashville ($86, July 14-21), New Orleans ($123, July 11-18), Destin ($126, July 28-Aug. 5), Orlando ($147, July 25-Aug. 3), San Antonio ($150, July 11-18), Fort Lauderdale ($153, July 17-24) and Las Vegas ($194, July 14-21). Those deals are 68 to 85 days before the trips.
The same Travel + Leisure article says international flights are priced best roughly 120 days before departure.
Travel on the holiday
You know the best thing about the Fourth of July holiday? It’s definitely not fireworks.
Rather, the best thing about July 4 and a few other major holidays is how people avoid traveling on those days. Thanksgiving Day is pretty dead at most airports, too.
But for the person who wants to save this summer, don’t ignore the dollar-savings power of July 4. Just keep in mind that many airlines limit their schedules that day so it’s both fewer travelers and fewer flights. Still, the airports will be dead and planes will be emptier than usual, meaning the cost of flying that day should be less.
Travelers who pick exact destinations and specific dates for their trips before checking the cost of airfare put themselves in a bind.
Yes, there will be times when a person absolutely must be somewhere on certain days (weddings, family reunions, etc.), but most leisure travelers who pay less to fly benefit from giving themselves wiggle room in terms of their preferred travel days. They don’t insist on flying on a Thursday and coming home on a Sunday.
In fact, if you want the best deals on the three low-cost carriers that serve XNA (Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines and Breeze Airways), you’ll depart from Northwest Arkansas on a Sunday or a Monday and return on a Thursday or a Friday. Are you willing to fly out on a Tuesday? That’s even better, but the low-cost carriers don’t fly as much mid-week.
This is supply and demand at work. Everyone wants to go for a weekend trip to leisure destinations served by those three airlines. You save dollars if you break from that weekend pack.
Greed is the enemy
The people who work hard to find the best deals on travel websites can end up waiting too long for the perfect deal when a good deal is at their fingertips.
As an example, consider that Google Flights shows a July 3-8 trip on Delta Air Lines from XNA to New York LaGuardia that’s selling for $308 roundtrip.
If you monitor fares, you know that there were many times in the past year or so in which XNA-to-NYC flights sold for $200 to $250. What you don’t know is if those prices will resurface in the next few weeks. It’s possible.
However, with high fuel prices and demand high for summer travel, it feels like the risk of a significant fare increase is far more likely than a meaningful decrease. That means you should take the deal when it feels like a fair price, and $308 to the Big Apple is good for summer travel this year.
Competition is a friend
If you pursue a trip to a destination served nonstop by more than one of XNA’s six airlines, you’ll benefit.
Delta competing with American Airlines for your travel to New York City helps you. Having Allegiant and Breeze Airways both going to airports in Tampa does, too.
That’s because an airline that keeps fares high when there’s competition runs the risk of alienating passengers and causing passengers to choose the competition.
Airlines, of course, contend they are better than the competition for other reasons (more on-time flights, fewer cancellations, more legroom, etc.), but it’s difficult for the average traveler to know those details. Moreover, a strong history of reliability (being on time, few cancelled flights) suggests what will happen in the future. It isn’t a guarantee.
What is guaranteed is the price that shows up on the travel-focused website at the time of a purchase. Competition helps keep fares less expensive because airlines want your business.