Airlines Say Holiday Flights Tight, But Seats Still Available

Posted Dec 20th 2010 08:56 AMUpdated Dec 20th 2010 10:57 AM

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It's going to be a cozy holiday season – especially if you are traveling by plane.

True to recent predictions made by the Air Transport Association, airlines are reporting that traffic is up this year from last year's Christmas and New Year's holiday season, with average load factors – the percentage of seats filled on a flight – approaching 90 percent.

That's an average, which means a good many flights will not have a single empty seat.

JetBlue, for one, says its daily load factors to Florida and the Caribbean this week will be in the 90s.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Mainz says that carrier, which has seen record load factors for most of the year, is also seeing an increase in holiday traffic over last year.

Despite the big numbers, there still may be hope for those who have left travel plans to the last minute, especially if you are flexible about when you fly.

Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, tells AOL Travel News that "there are still a few seats at decent prices if you are flexible and stay away from the Sunday and Monday after Christmas and New Year's."

But procrastinating travelers should not expect a last-minute bargain. "At this point, buying tickets is all about scoring a better bad deal," Seaney says.

Still, JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Croyle says some advance-purchase restrictions have been reduced for the holidays and "Shorter-haul flights have relatively more seats available, and they're available at a value compared to driving or taking the train."

Southwest's Mainz says space is tight, "But there are still seats out there."

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