updated 2/23/2009 6:40:41 PM ET 2009-02-23T23:40:41

Prices for airline travel to Europe and Hawaii during the upcoming peak summer season are far below last year's levels, suggesting the carriers are worried about filling planes, says an observer of fares.

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The lower prices are a combination of lower fares and smaller fuel surcharges. The falling value of the euro gives another edge to U.S. consumers planning a vacation in Europe.

Airlines added fuel surcharges last year as fuel rose to an all-time high in July. Since then, however, fuel prices have fallen about two-thirds, and many carriers have reduced or eliminated the fees.

Tom Parsons, chief executive of discount travel site Bestfares.com, said Monday that a round trip between San Francisco and Honolulu leaving July 8 sold this week for $345, with no fuel surcharge, down from $532, including a $90 fuel fee, at this time last year.

Slightly smaller percentage savings were seen on flights to Hawaii from Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and other mainland cities, he said.

Base fares, fuel surcharges and landing fees for round trips between San Francisco or Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia, sold this week for $808 compared with $1,831 a year ago, Parsons said.

The cost of a round trip between New York or Boston and London was recently between $790 and $840 compared with $961 to $991 a year ago, he said.

Airline executives have said demand is soft this year because of the recession, and those people who do travel are waiting longer before buying tickets, making it harder to predict demand.

"I'm glad I don't own an airline," Parsons said. "They need help, and there's a lot of competition out there."

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