- Airfare is increasing as the holidays draw nearer, with ticket prices up 55% over Christmas compared to 2020.
- Airfare tracking app Hopper says travelers should book their Christmas travel no later than Thanksgiving.
- Experts say increased bookings and rising fuel costs have contributed to the spike in ticket prices.
The holiday season is here again and after nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are eager to see loved ones in person again, but it won’t be cheap.
During the pandemic, airlines were desperate to fill planes and offered highly discounted fares to entice people to travel despite ongoing restrictions and the risk of the virus. However, now that vaccination rates are up and the US border is open, demand has skyrocketed, and so have ticket prices.
Hopper, an airfare tracking app, published its yearly Holiday Travel Guide to give travelers an idea of what to expect in terms of ticket prices over Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to the company, domestic airfare this Thanksgiving is an average of $US300 ($AU415) roundtrip, up 23% from 2020, though still 11% below 2019 levels.
Christmas travel will burn an even bigger hole in travelers’ wallets this year. Hopper revealed domestic airfare around the holiday is $US390 ($AU539), which is 55% higher than 2020 and on par with 2019.
Atlanta-resident Candace Driver complained on Twitter about rising airfare. She told Insider she flies home to California every year for Christmas, but fares were double what she paid for three people in 2020.
“It was $US1200 ($AU1,659) for tickets home this year. Last year we got out of here for around $US600 ($AU830),” she said.
Insider also spoke with Twitter user Bailey Bond who said she spent hours looking for a cheaper flight from Portland to Texas after prices soared to $US900 ($AU1,244). She ended up paying $US800 ($AU1,106) for one ticket.
“Every year for Christmas we have spent about $US360 ($AU498) per person for round trip flights to Texas,” she said. “What we usually spend getting two of us home round trip wouldn’t even buy 1 person a round trip ticket this year.”
With the stark increase in airfare from the previous year, airlines are likely anticipating a stronger Christmas travel period compared to Thanksgiving, according to Hopper. So, for travelers who have not yet bought their tickets, this could put a dent in the budget, but it is not too late to avoid the biggest price spikes.
Hopper suggests travelers should buy their flights by Thanksgiving at the latest because airfare will continue to increase as Christmas gets closer. The company expects domestic ticket prices to rise 7% to $US460 ($AU636) by December 11, and another 11% to $US510 ($AU705) in the week leading up to the holiday.
Rising airfare is a result of two main factors: increased demand and rising fuel prices, experts say. An Adobe report revealed bookings are 3.2% higher than 2019 and up 78% compared to 2020. Meanwhile, according to CNBC, fuel is up 63% compared to the same time in 2020, and airlines are preparing to take a hit because of it. In their respective earnings calls for Q3, CEOs for both Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines said the rising costs would impact their Q4 bottom line.
Moreover, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC in an interview that fuel prices directly impact airfare.
“Jet fuel prices go up usually because demand is strong, and that’s going to be true again,” Kirby said. “Right now supply is still swamping demand, but ultimately, higher jet fuel prices lead to higher ticket prices.”
Henry Harteveldt, president and travel industry analyst of Atmosphere Research Group, echoed industry executives.
“Rising fuel costs are going to play the role of Scrooge to anyone hoping to find an inexpensive flight for the Christmas holiday,” he told Insider.