Ticket prices will rise as airlines prepare for holiday travel

(CNN) – A new forecast predicts the cost of holiday travel will increase this week as the Thanksgiving rush approaches.

The big question is whether that ticket you pay for will be worth it after the cancellations seen this summer.

The Thanksgiving holiday is about to begin and will be the most expensive in five years.

Travel site Hopper said tickets will cost 19% more than last year, with the average domestic round-trip ticket at $274.

“This Thanksgiving will be a very expensive holiday to travel,” said Hayley Berg, chief economist for Hopper. “Especially for travelers who book late.”

The pressure is on airlines to avoid a meltdown like this summer, when they canceled a total of 55,000 flights.

Federal data showed that 40% of all cancellations were for reasons the airlines could control, not the weather.

“It’s very clear that most of the delays are on the airlines,” said Billy Nolen, acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airlines, however, insist the fault lies with unstaffed air traffic control centres.

“In the summer, we had shortages every day,” said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. “And they could lead to hundreds of cancellations and delays.”

Employment is growing in the airline industry.

The FAA is bringing in new air traffic controllers.

American Airlines has hired more than 1,400 new employees since Labor Day. United has added more than 1,500 new pilots this year, and has 3,000 new flight attendants at Southwest.

“We are certainly with you,” said Sara Nelson, the international president of the Flight Attendants Association. “We’re pushing our airlines not to overpromise on schedule so we can deliver what we’re selling.”

However, carriers are cutting back their fall schedules, a move Delta called a “huge improvement” in curbing summer cancellations and delays.

Industry data shows American Airlines cut 31,000 domestic flights from its November schedule.

For travelers, it all adds up to a travel season with fewer options and higher prices.

“We expect to see chaos at airports over the holidays … but American travelers have proven to be resilient,” Berg said. “And they’re willing to pay more and experience these disruptions … to get back to see family and friends after two years of traveling in the depression.”

Another risk of waiting too long to buy your flight isn’t just higher ticket prices. Experts said the flights you want can sell out.

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