Americans are expected to head to airports during the winter holiday season in numbers not seen since before the coronavirus pandemic.
But their wallets are going to be hit hard as airline prices, backed by consumer demand, a 40-year-high inflation rate, fewer scheduled flights and higher fuel costs, are skyrocketing.
Travel booking app Hopper said airfares will be 22% higher than in 2019, and 43% higher than last year. It said fares for Thanksgiving peaked at more than $400 in August but fell 9% in September, which it said happens every year.
A report by SmartAsset, a finance technology company, found the average airfare nationally in the second quarter of 2022 was $397. The last time the national average exceeded $390 was in 2014.
“I’m not surprised that flight prices are higher now than they were pre-pandemic, given all the things our industry has been through in the past few years,” Roger Broussard, a professional pilot and CEO and Founder of Pilot School Hero, told SmartAsset. “The pandemic itself really hit our industry badly, with employees leaving the industry never to return, which has exacerbated staff shortages. There’s also, if you can believe it, a shortage of planes across some airlines… That’s without even talking about oil prices and inflation!”
SmartAsset’s report said airfares are unlikely to drop for the holidays.
“We’d normally expect prices to drop off a little over the winter months," Broussard said. "But this year, the power looks to be in the hands of the airlines, with demand looking set to stay high and limited spaces to go around meaning prices will stay high.”
The Transportation Security Administration said the number of travelers going through airport checkpoints in October recovered to nearly 95% of 2019 traffic. On Sunday, according to TSA figures, the checkpoint travel total at U.S. airports was 2,435,219, up 1.6% from the same day in 2019.
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