TAMPA, Fla. — AAA anticipates 4.2 million domestic flight travelers this Thanksgiving week, 2.1 million more nationwide fliers compared to last year. High demand is making it difficult to find affordable airfares.
“It’s just really expensive this time of year to try to go anywhere at the moment," Mary Rivera said.
Rivera flew out of Tampa International Airport on Monday. She, her husband, and their son took off for a Thanksgiving reunion in New York. Then, the trio has plans to attend a wedding in Connecticut.
Rivera said their flights cost them $500 per person.
"We were trying to decide if it was cheaper to drive or cheaper to fly," she said.
“They’ve hiked up rates a ridiculous amount," Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel Management Group, said. "Some rates to some parts of the country are absolutely insane, right now.”
In fact, Levent told ABC Action News, airfares are the highest she has seen in 30 years as a travel agent.
“Booking clients, right now, during the holidays has been complete insanity," she said.
That chaos is evident at the airports. TPA announced its highest traffic count, Sunday, since the start of the pandemic.
The airport anticipates 80,000 passengers passing through on its busiest days in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.
"We are definitely busy," TPA Spokesperson Emily Nipps said. "We're just going to keep seeing those numbers climb through the Christmas holiday."
It is best to get a head start on booking those Christmas flights. Last-second Thanksgiving fliers are kicking themselves for waiting.
High passenger demand and limited flights due to short staffing at airlines make for heightened holiday fares, and open seats on flights to reconnect with relatives over a shared holiday meal are few and far between.
"It’s hard enough for me to find a flight, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years," Levent said. "I can’t even imagine someone like you trying to find a flight.”
TPA officials told ABC Action News competition among airlines is driving some ticket prices down. They said budget airlines, like Spirit Airlines, and Allegiant Air, still have reasonable options if you can find dates that work for you.