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Lower Fuel Prices Don't Mean Lower Airfares

October 3, 2011, 9:50 PM by Angela Kennecke

Lower Fuel Prices Don't Mean Lower Airfares
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Your wallet shouldn't be as empty every time you fill'er up. Gas prices are down 21 cents per gallon from a month ago and it looks like they'll keep dropping for a while.

While the cost of fuel is always being blamed for higher airline prices, it turns out when prices drop at the pump, airfares don't necessarily follow.

Gas prices are going in the direction that leaves more money in consumers' pockets.

"Crude finally fell and now it's staying there. In recent times this entire year, crude has fallen and bounced right back up. Finally we're underneath $80; some people are saying we're heading toward $75 a barrel.  How long it lasts I don't know, but at least right now, the trend looks good for the consumer," Mark Madeja of AAA South Dakota said.

Analysts say the price at the pump could go as low as $3.15 a gallon, but if you're looking to catch a flight, you won't get the same kind of break.

"A lot of people are upset with the airline industry right now; a couple of things in play.  Number one, jet fuel is a whole different story; they contract that a long time in advance," Madeja said.

That means airlines will continue to pass along the higher prices they paid for the fuel months ago. And the average domestic airfare for the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas is expected to be nearly $400, or four percent higher than last year.

"The airlines have cut capacity, seat capacity some 20 to 30 percent; so there aren't really any bargains to be found and they can charge whatever they want for those seats," Madeja said.

If you're not necessarily planning a holiday trip, but just want a winter getaway, the cheapest time to fly is the first two weeks in December before things pick up.

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