Airlines Trim Holiday Flights, Cut Off-Peak Bargains

US Airways will fly 40% fewer flights this Thanksgiving
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2008 1:54 PM CDT
In this March 12, 2008 file photo, a Southwest Airlines plane takes off while another taxis on the runway at Los Angeles International Airport.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut, file)
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(Newser) – As airlines struggle to stay competitive, scheduling changes mean that consumers will see fewer planes and higher fares, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the coming Thanksgiving season, US Airways is flying 40% fewer flights than a year ago. Delta and United have both reduced Thanksgiving flights by more than 20%. And thanks to more efficient scheduling programs, cheap off-peak flights will be harder to find.

Flight scheduling is immensely complex, so most airlines fly similar schedules every day, regardless of consumer demand. Airlines use pricing to compensate—that's why Tuesday flights are cheaper than those on Friday. Computer models designed to optimize scheduling enable airlines to change schedules day to day, so unprofitable flights will be eliminated, not priced down.