Calling all fans of booking early to get cheap airline tickets! The party might be over for you. In the confusing game of airline ticket prices, the airlines are known to sell cheap tickets to the early birds, and raise prices as the seats sell out. It has come to pass... seats are selling out, and prices are up!

With cutbacks in flight schedules, the big airlines are selling 80% or more of their seats, and are raising prices accordingly. The old supply and demand rules are resurfacing, and as consumers are vying for fewer seats, the airlines are able to charge more for them. Prices are highest on routes where there's little to no competition, especially from low-cost carriers.

Filling seats really is the name of the game. There is a certain cost to fly an airplane between two points, with only small increases in cost as additional weight (passengers and baggage) is added to the plane. It makes sense for the airlines to fill as many seats as possible, maximizing revenue through the filled seats and the ability to charge a little more for the seats because of reduced availability of seats.
In spite of this news, I haven't felt like the prices I'm paying for airfare are all that bad. I recently booked four flights, and the most expensive one was around $350. I still consider that a bargain, since I'm getting two-across seating and reasonable leg room from Midwest Airlines. Would my tickets have been cheaper last year? Most definitely. Am I upset at the cost this year? Nope. There's a cost everyone is willing to pay, and the fares I paid are definitely within that range for me.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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