Holiday flights may be cheaper this year

Taking a flight out of Atlanta for the Thanksgiving holiday will be cheaper on average this year, according to a travel Web site’s preliminary outlook for the holiday season.

Bing Travel, a Microsoft travel search Web site that replaced Farecast.com, said its data show Thanksgiving fares out of Atlanta are down 13 percent on average compared with last year. Atlanta fares for the holiday average $308 this year, down from $354 last year.

Fares are also down nationally, with a 17 percent decline in Thanksgiving and Christmas fares, according to the Web site’s data.

“Airlines have cut capacity to the point that we will see pretty full planes, but at least for now, fares are still depressed,” Bing Travel’s Joel Grus said in a written statement. “Early signs of a rebounding economy could increase consumer demand, pushing fares back up.”

Among the biggest average declines out of Atlanta are fares to Louisville, Ky., down 54 percent; Seattle, down 50 percent; and Cincinnati, down 42 percent. Some fares are up, however, including flights to Savannah, up 43 percent.

Compared with last year, fares have been down this year amid the recession. Domestic fares out of Atlanta were down 20 percent on average for the summer, and spring break fares this year were also down.

According to Bing Travel, fares are more likely to increase than they are to decrease as the holiday season nears, so travelers should buy fares now if they find deals.

The cheapest places for premium hotels this fall are Miami at an average of $138 per night and Tampa at $139 per night, according to the travel Web site.

Meanwhile, airlines are tacking on fees for certain services that travelers did not face during last year’s holiday season.

Atlanta-based Delta in August added a $5 surcharge for paying checked baggage fees at the airport instead of online, matching moves by some other airlines. Delta charges $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second checked bag on domestic flights, without the surcharge.

AirTran Airways, which has its largest hub in Atlanta, on Oct. 1 will increase its penalty for overweight bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds from $39 to $49, but it is also removing its penalty for oversized bags with overall dimensions of 62 to 70 inches (which is calculated by adding length plus width plus height), according to its Web site. AirTran charges $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second checked bag.