Elevated airfare prevents some holiday travel

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    While most students will be packing up and heading home for Thanksgiving today, students such as John Gilliland will be staying in Fort Worth because of rising airfares.Gilliland, a sophomore marketing major from Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, said he’s staying in Fort Worth because he waited until the last minute to buy a plane ticket, and now the prices are too high.

    “The tickets were going to cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500,” Gilliland said. “I’ve never seen prices that high.”

    Christie Rush, branch manager of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a travel management company in Plano, said airfares go up every year during the holidays, mainly because of the high demand. However, she said, prices out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport aren’t quite as high as they could be because of the repeal of the Wright Amendment.

    The Wright Amendment restricted non-stop flights out of Love Field Airport in Dallas to other Texas cities and neighboring states, which had the biggest effect on Love Field-based carrier Southwest Airlines, Rush said.

    However, Southwest can now fly to cities not in neighboring states.

    “Because of the Wright Amendment, airlines like American are offering lower prices this year so that they can compete with Southwest’s prices,” Rush said.

    There are 1,510 out-of-state students at TCU, according to the 2006 Factbook. About 650 of those students live in neighboring states, where students say it is more feasible to drive home.

    Jessica Broadaway, a junior theater major from Maumelle, Ark., said living in a neighboring state makes it easier to go home, regardless of how high airfares are raised.

    “For me, price doesn’t matter because I can always drive,” Broadaway said.

    But when students live in states that are farther away, like St. Louis resident Caitlin Baker, driving home for a few days can be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

    “I fly home instead of driving because it’s too short of a break to drive from here to St. Louis,” said Baker, a junior advertising/public relations major.

    Baker paid $234.10 to fly home on Southwest instead of making the 10-hour drive.

    Marisa Simson, a junior fashion-merchandising major from Overland Park, Kan., said sometimes the price of tickets affects whether she gets to go home.

    This Thanksgiving, Simson is driving home because she said it was going to cost the same as flying.

    Prices for airline tickets vary by both airline and the city, and if students buy their tickets early, they are more likely to save themselves a lot of money, Rush said.

    “A lot of people try to buy their tickets at the last minute, but by then, prices are either too high or the tickets are not available,” she said.

    Rush said the days students choose to travel also has an impact on the prices of tickets. She said if students can schedule their return flight for the Monday after Thanksgiving, they can save a lot of money.

    Andrew Fort, a religion professor, said he usually buys tickets from Southwest to fly his daughter Meredith, a junior at Tulane University, home from New Orleans. Fort said he was able to find tickets on American Airlines for $215 this year, which was relatively close to what he paid last year, he said.

    While there are students who pay out of their own pockets to go home for the holiday, many students say their parents fly them home for the holidays.

    “My parents pay for my tickets, unless it’s a special trip,” said Katherine Beattie, a radio-TV-film major from La Ca¤ada Flintridge, Calif.

    Beattie said her parents paid $233.90 to fly her home on American Airlines for the holiday weekend.

    For those students who aren’t going home for Thanksgiving, they will only have to wait a few weeks for Christmas break.

    Gilliland said the closeness of the two holidays was one of the reasons he wasn’t going to pay to fly home to Puerto Rico.

    “It’s too much money to go home for a couple of days, come back to Fort Worth and then do the same thing again two weeks later,” Gilliland said.

    But if a student did wait until the last minute to buy their ticket home, they don’t have to start panicking yet, Rush said. As long as students are willing to pay for it, they can usually find some way to get home. If they’re lucky, they might find the odd, last-minute deal, Rush said.

    “We have tickets from D/FW to Los Angeles on Wednesday night for $266,” Rush said. “That’s pretty good for a last-second ticket.