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Spring break flights cheaper than last year, report finds

Long Islanders taking winter getaway and spring break

Long Islanders taking winter getaway and spring break flights this year out of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports may be paying lower fares than a year ago, a new report shows. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Islanders taking winter getaway and spring break flights this year out of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports probably will be paying fares lower than a year ago, a new report by a ticket processor shows.

The biggest decline — an average of 7.6 percent to $537.14 — is in round-trip fares to the Caribbean and Mexico, Airlines Reporting Corp. of Arlington, Virginia, said in a report done for Newsday.

Round-trip fares for domestic flights this winter and spring out of the two New York airports have fallen 3.4 percent, to an average of $462.28, the company said.

In both cases, the key reason for the declines is an increasing resolve by traditional airlines such as American, Delta and United to compete on price with faster-growing discounters such as Spirit, Frontier and Southwest, said veteran airline consultant Robert Mann of Port Washington.

“They really have no choice but to either compete with those guys or lose those markets,” he said.

Lower jet fuel costs have helped make those fare reductions possible, Mann said. “They can become more aggressive on price and actually make money on those airfares,” he said.

The larger decrease since last year in Caribbean and Mexico fares is due mostly to their nature as primarily leisure markets, where the passengers are more price-sensitive than in those markets with heavy business travel. Business travelers tend to make reservations later and pay higher fares.

Mann said there’s little evidence of a large decline in passenger traffic from fears of the Zika virus, which is active in Mexico and a number of other Caribbean destinations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The effect seems to be pretty small,” Mann said, “but most of these tickets are purchased way in advance. How it affects future bookings is another question.”

The disease is rarely fatal, according to the CDC, but the virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, possibly causing birth defects.

At Promal Vacations in Long Beach, co-director Helen Prochilo of the Long Island chapter of the National Association of Career Travel Agents said, “I find most of my clients are not concerned about it — only if they plan on getting pregnant.”

For international and domestic flights, the Airlines Reporting data is for travel between Feb. 1 and April 15. The figures include taxes and fees paid at the time of ticket purchase, but not fees paid at the airport or on the plane.

Airlines Reporting does not have data for flights out of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.

Among the most popular destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, average fares to Nassau in the Bahamas fell by the biggest percentage, said Airlines Reporting, down 22.4 percent to $484.30 round trip.

Not all fares to the Caribbean have dropped, however; a round-trip ticket from New York to St. Maarten costs 2.8 percent more this season than last, or $704, said Airlines Reporting.

Chuck Thackston, an executive at Airlines Reporting, attributed that to a decrease by American Airlines in direct service to the island. “There’s still connecting service,” he said, but “that decrease in [direct] service is why fares are slightly higher.”

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