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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

Flying for the Holidays

If you plan to fly during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday, I have a message for you. Get your tickets now. Most airlines have cut service by 20 percent since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Further compounding the problem, most of the major airlines are drowning in red ink, despite the $15 billion government bailout.

That translates to fewer and more expensive flights. Just this past week United Airlines cut hundreds of flights from an already reduced schedule. According to a Los Angeles Times story, United, which operated 2,400 flights a day before September 11, cut back to about 1,850 after the terrorist attacks. On November 1, United will scale down even further trimming their schedule to approximately to 1,654 flights a day. In an industry known for playing follow the leader; you should expect other carriers to follow suit, with the lone exception being Southwest Airlines. LAX appears to have taken the biggest hit in this recent round of cuts as United reduced their service out of the nation’s third busiest airport by 40 percent.

So, in the big scheme of things what does this mean to your holiday travel plans? With more Americans returning to the skies and reduced flight schedules, finding a ticket if you wait to long could leave many of out in the cold. As most of you already know, most airlines raise prices during heavily travel holiday periods in the normal course of business. Now, with reduced schedules and more passengers, the law of supply and demand tells me to expect higher fares.

Having said that, the airlines won’t go out of their way to gouge passengers, but its safe to say prices will be higher than they are now. If you’re a gambler or a procrastinator and you wait until the last second to purchase a ticket in the hopes of finding planes either half-full or fares at sharply discounted prices, you could be in for a rude awakening. I would still recommend booking earlier to receive the best fares.

Be prepared for tight---tight----tight security. Terrorists like to make statements. What better time to target America than during the heavily traveled holiday season. The Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines and any agency charged with airport security will be on a heightened state of alert. You should plan accordingly and arrive at the airport early. If you’re one of the brave souls who plan to fly the day before Thanksgiving, November 21, plan to arrive at the airport at least three hours early for a domestic flight. Here are a few tips you might want to take note of when flying during the holidays.

If you plan to take gifts to loved ones, don’t take them on the plane ship them early. The FAA has ordered the airlines to restrict the amount of carry-on bag to one item, plus a purse. Please adhere to this requirement. It will speed up security checks. Make sure all your luggage is marked properly. If you want to avoid crowds, considering flying into alternate airports like Burbank instead of LAX, Midway instead of Chicago’s O’Hare or Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami.