Travel Notes: Airfares expected to drop later this month

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Air travelers, rejoice: Relief from soaring airfares may be just around the corner, at least temporarily.

For travelers, it can't happen soon enough. In the first three months of the year, the average domestic airfare in the U.S. climbed to $373, up 4.8 percent from the same period last year, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

That was on top of an 8.3 percent increase in fares in 2011 and another 8.3 percent increase in 2010, according to statistics from the agency.

But air travelers should get a break this month, when airfares are expected to drop 10 percent to 20 percent.

That is the prediction from Rick Seaney, chief executive of travel website FareCompare. He said the price drop should affect flights starting around Aug. 21, with the start of the slow fall travel season.

In late August, children start to head back to school as summer vacations end, prompting many airlines to drop their "peak travel season" surcharges, he said.

For example, a round-trip ticket between San Diego and Providence, R.I., sells for about $380 if the flight is in mid-August but drops to $222 if the flight is in September, according to data from FareCompare. A round-trip ticket between Washington and San Francisco sells for about $255 for a mid-August flight but $208 for a September flight, the website said.

"Demand appears to be slightly down this summer from what had been expected," Mr. Seaney said. "And the airlines are not pushing their luck with further price increase attempts -- at least for now."

In-flight sales

US Airways is looking into new ways to sell goods and services to passengers for use on the plane and at the passengers' final destinations.

Under a renewed contract with the Tempe, Ariz., airline, Toronto technology firm GuestLogix Inc. has announced that it would provide US Airways flight attendants with hand-held devices they could use to charge a passenger's credit card by simply tapping the card on the device.

GuestLogix is also working with US Airways to advertise deals and offers to passengers through emails, onboard announcements and brochures stuffed in seat-back pockets.

The goal is to get travelers to funnel a bigger share of their travel spending through the airlines, said Patrick O'Neill, senior vice president and general manager for GuestLogix USA.

"The airlines have an advantage because they know where we are going," Mr. O'Neill said.

For example, passengers flying on US Airways to Las Vegas might get offers to buy tickets to shows or sporting events in the city, he said. "We want to make the offers relative to the travelers and the cities they are going to."

Passengers should begin to see the offers on US Airways flights in the first half of next year, Mr. O'Neill said.

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