On the Money

Not cancelling Christmas: Global woes don't spell lower fares

Come fly with me

Looking to fly this holiday season? Be ready for fuller flights and higher fares, in spite of falling oil prices, as well as toil and trouble virtually everywhere.

With the heavy travel seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas nearly at hand, experts say global uncertainty may not necessarily result in empty flights. For most travelers, it's likely to be business as usual.

"You are going to feel like you are sitting very close to the person next to you on the plane," said Travel + Leisure's Amy Farley.

"Airlines cut back capacity a couple of years ago and they're doing really well because now their flights are flying fuller loads." Load factor represents the percentage of seats filled, and the U.S. airlines that recently reported quarterly earnings had load factors greater than 80 percent.

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Don't expect airlines to offer savings to travelers, either. Most airlines are reaping in profits, helped in large measure by a swoon in the global price of oil.

According to Expedia.com, flights around Thanksgiving weekend already are up nearly 20 percent from last year—even in light of fears about Ebola infections. Meanwhile, the site adds flights for the Christmas holiday season are also up by 2 percent.

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"Airlines are very happy they are making money right now. They are not going to be passing on the lower fuel prices to consumers," Farley warned.

Booking site Orbitz predicts fares on plane travel surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas to be 5 percent higher this year than in 2013, with prices rising the closer the holidays approach. That means consumers shouldn't procrastinate in the hopes of getting a cheaper flight.

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"You should buy right now," Farley said. "Airfares only rise at this point."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.