Early Christmas gift from the airlines – no advance purchase surcharges

After several years of adding additional fees and rules to our tickets, the airlines are finally giving us something back for the Holiday season.

Seven of the major carriers (American Airlines, United, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, Frontier, AirTran and Midwest) announced that they would waive all advance purchase rules for tickets between today and January 4th 2010.

What this means to last minute travelers is that an $1800 ticket will be about $1500 cheaper when purchased for same day travel.

Of course, the airlines wouldn’t be the the money makers we know them to be, without a bunch of restrictions on their sales:

The cheapest tickets are available on Dec. 16, 17, 25 and Jan. 1 and 4

The second cheapest level airfares are about 30% higher than the lowest fares. Travel for this level is valid on December 18, 20, 21, 24, 30 and 31.

The third cheapest level is about 55% higher than the lowest fares. Travel dates will be December 19, 22, 23, 26, 28 and 29.

December 27 and January 2 and 3 have not been included in the holiday fare sale – and those tickets could end up being substantially more expensive.

(Source: USA Today / Bestfares.com)

Bottom line is that even though the airlines appear to be the good guys, their complicated fare structure could end up costing passengers more. Travelers tend to book flights for the holiday season in advance, so removing last minute purchase rules really only benefits those that suddenly decide to go somewhere for Christmas or who run into sudden changes that require a last minute ticket purchase.