Why are SC Christmas tickets so expensive?

Southwest Airlines' inaugural flight to Myrtle Beach International Airport arrived from Baltimore on Sunday, May 23, 2021.  State leaders, tourism officials and local mayors announced Southwest's arrival as a tremendous boost to Grand Strand's economy.

Southwest Airlines’ inaugural flight to Myrtle Beach International Airport arrived from Baltimore on Sunday, May 23, 2021. State leaders, tourism officials and local mayors announced Southwest’s arrival as a tremendous boost to Grand Strand’s economy.

ckaracostas@thesunnews.com

For those looking to find a cheap or even affordable flight home at the last minute, your luck may have already run out.

“If you’re trying to get a good flight for the holidays, you better hope you’re on Santa’s very good list because depending on where you want to go, you might need to prepare for sticker shock,” said Henry Harteveldt, an airline industry analyst in San Francisco.

The cost of air travel skyrocketed this fall as COVID-19 cases plummeted and more people felt safe traveling for the first time since the pandemic began. Especially after last year, when it wasn’t safe to go home for Thanksgiving or the December holidays, people wanted to visit their families, and millions did.

Booking last minute flights is always risky. Airlines rely on last-minute business travel bookings for a significant portion of their revenue, so waiting is rarely cheap. This fall, The Points Guy, a prominent online travel news channel, advised people to book trips immediately, noting that airfares were expected to increase by 18% as the holidays approached.

But now the new ommicron variant throws a wrench into travel plans, and not in the way people might expect, Harteveldt said.

Rather than resulting in cheaper flights due to canceled trips, Harteveldt said finding a flight could become even more difficult. After being stuck at home for nearly two years, people are determined to go on vacation, he said. As a result, anyone who had planned international travel for the holidays could now see where to go domestically, increasing competition for flights in the US.

“I am one of the people who had considered a trip to Europe for the Christmas holidays and decided not to go because the number of COVID cases there started to increase and countries or cities were partially or completely closed,” Harteveldt said. “That shifts more of the demand and thus increases competition for domestic flights.

“There is very strong domestic demand: good for airlines, but not good for last minute bargain hunters,” he said.

Myrtle Beach a winter destination

A sign of Myrtle Beach’s growing importance as a winter destination, Southwest Airlines asked Myrtle Beach International Airport earlier this year to keep the terminal open year-round. Normally, the airport could close up to half of its gates if the number of flights decreases during the winter months.

That move has proved prescient. From December 20 to January 3, the airport currently has 482 airlines scheduled – about 200 more flights than the same period in both 2020 and 2019. Most days have more than a dozen more flights leaving the airport compared to The past two years.

This Christmas is not the time for travelers to arrive 45 minutes before departure on a MYR flight.

Don’t expect the ommicron variant to work in your favor when it comes to flight. Even though many people cancel their travel plans this season, Harteveldt says, airlines aren’t likely to cut ticket prices set weeks or months in advance.

“We can’t ignore the fact that many of us have been locked up for much of the past almost two years,” Harteveldt said. “There are a lot of people who feel like their ability to travel has been taken away and they want to travel, and they will travel.”

Higher airline prices aren’t just due to increased competition for flights. Due to rising oil prices this year, many airlines have passed these costs on to consumers. United Airlines announced in October that ticket prices would rise due to the rising cost of jet fuel. CNBC reported on Nov. 15 that jet fuel hadn’t been as expensive since 2014 as it is today.

Meanwhile, for those choosing to drive as an alternative to flying, international oil producers have been slow to respond to rising market demand, meaning it could be a while before gas prices return to the $2-per-gallon price seen before and during the recession. pandemic was seen.

Travel tips for the holidays

For starters, Harteveldt says travelers should be willing to forgo the airline they usually fly for the airline that’s available or affordable. Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant Air have all added more flights to destinations like Myrtle Beach this year. A new low-cost airline, Breeze, has flights to Charleston.

“But overall there is less airline capacity than in 2019 and there is more demand for domestic travel,” he said. Many airlines also suffer from burnout and staff shortages, so cancellations due to lack of crew are already common for much of the year.

Be prepared to change which city you want to spend the vacation in. When you’re visiting family, it’s harder to be flexible. if you just want to get out of the house for the vacation, Harteveldt says you might want to consider avoiding popular vacation spots like Orlando for a less crowded spot.

“Maybe there is another place that gives you the same level of satisfaction, whether it’s a beach resort or another big city that offers many, if not all of the things your number one destination has to offer,” he said.

Other options include flying to less crowded airports or destinations a little further away and then driving. If you need to fly to Charlotte for Christmas but airfares are too expensive, try checking out flights to Columbia and then driving the rest of the way, Harteveldt suggests.

Wherever you go, be careful. Be sure to look at hotel prices and the cost of the entertainment you want to spend money on (Broadway shows, for example). Even if you can afford the plane ticket, the cost of lodging and entertainment can add up, Harteveldt said.

“We need to look beyond just the cost of the airfare,” he said.

Travelers above all need to be agile, Harteveldt said. Set up notifications on services like Google Flights and Expedia to keep an eye on the best possible prices and be ready to book in an instant.

“If you’re opportunistic, you might be able to save some money on a trip,” Harteveldt said. “But if you can’t go somewhere for Christmas now, maybe next year you can at least plan a trip for a while and look forward to that.”

This story was originally published Dec 9, 2021 05:00 AM.

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Chase Karacostas writes for McClatchy about tourism in Myrtle Beach and in South Carolina. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in journalism and political communications. He started working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has made a name for himself in three of the state’s largest print media outlets, as well as the Texas Tribune on state politics, the environment, housing and the LGBTQ+ community.

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