Fewer air-fare bargains likely for travelers this Christmas

Look for fewer holiday air-fare bargains this Christmas. Air travel at Thanksgiving is largely the reason. While more people than usual flew on major airlines during this year's Thanksgiving holiday -- thanks to heavy discounts on air fares -- several major air carriers were disappointed at the response. Three carriers, American, TWA, and United, have not announced any discounts for Christmas.

``The results were less than overwhelming,'' says Joe Hopkins, spokesman for United Airlines.

He says that United expected about 70 percent of its seats to be filled, but sold only 58 percent. United normally flies at about 40 percent of capacity on Thanksgiving.

American Airlines, which launched the holiday-weekend price war when it offered discounts of up to 85 percent, also said it did not carry as many passengers as anticipated.

Spokesman Joe Stroop says that American filled 69 percent of its seats during the three-day promotion, short of the 80 percent it expected. American normally flies with only about 40 percent occupancy on those days.

But four other airlines this week began a fare war on flights from the New York area to Florida during the pre-Christmas travel lull.

Delta Air Lines, Eastern Airlines, and People Express on Monday announced $49 one-way fares for limited seating on midweek flights from the New York area to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and three other Florida cities from Dec. 3 to Dec. 17.

New York Air followed Tuesday by offering $39 one-way weekday fares on all flights from Newark, N.J., to Orlando and Tampa from Dec. 5 through Dec. 17.

Delta Airlines is offering reduced fares for three days at Christmas, following a positive response on Thanksgiving, said spokesman Jim Ewing by telephone from Atlanta.

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