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DESPITE LOWER AIRFARES, GAS PRICES, MANY STAYING PUT

  • Dan Weis collects his luggage from the baggage claim after arriving from Portland on Horizon Airlines at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport on Wednesday, December 17, 2008.

Kris Kringle presumably will fly over the holidays, but thousands of Californians won't.

About 72,000 fewer folks will board planes over the year-end holidays, as economic turbulence overrides deep discounts on airfare, travel industry analysts say.

And despite the cheapest gasoline in five years, fewer people are expected to drive 50 miles or more from home during the holiday season, according to the seasonal travel forecast by AAA Northern California.

"Travel is a luxury," AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said. "People are definitely cutting back on their travel."

But some passengers at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport on Wednesday were happy to get out of town.

Anne Shapiro of Santa Rosa paid $204 for a roundtrip flight to Las Vegas -- well above Horizon Airs' advertised $69 one-way fare -- but she got two nights in a deluxe hotel room for $79.

"What a deal, right?" Shapiro said. "I couldn't afford not to go."

Her trip was inspired by a chance to surprise her nephew and godson on his 40th birthday.

Marty and Jeff De Kay-Bemis of Occidental, also catching the midday flight to Las Vegas, got a $600 package for airfare and three nights at the Venetian.

"We wanted to go to Paris, but we couldn't afford it," Marty De Kay-Bemis said.


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