TAMPA, Fla. — If you’re planning a summer vacation and have been looking at flights, you’ve likely noticed ticket prices have doubled to many destinations. That’s because demand is back but supply? Not so much.
“Right now, airfare is rising rapidly from the start of the year, air fare’s up about a quarter,” said Willis Orlando, with Scott’s Cheap Flights, a website that follows airline prices daily and finds the best deals for subscribers.
For example, a flight from Tampa to Los Angeles in June was about $327 two months ago, at an average of $215 to $310 according to Google Flights.
Now, it’s at least $300 more. The cheapest round trip at the end of April was sitting at $625 on Spirit Airlines.
“The overarching thing that’s happening right now is demand is back,” Orlando explained. “Right now Americans want to travel as much or more than they did pre-pandemic.”
“Which is leading to strong demand and that's demand for flights, cruises, hotels, rental cars,” Mark Jenkins a spokesperson for AAA Travel Agency added. “Just for Memorial Day specifically, we're seeing bookings twice or double that of what we saw last Memorial Day Weekend.”
Recent stats from an Adobe Digital Economy Index report found domestic airline ticket sales were 6% higher in February of this year than in 2019.
“At the same time, airlines are saying ‘Hey, for the last two years, we lost a lot of money. Let's try to recoup those losses.. let's charge as much as we possibly can,’” Orlando said.
But that’s not all.
“What's behind the higher airfares are a combination of strong demand, inflationary pressures and rising fuel costs,” Jenkins said.
During the pandemic, fewer people traveled and airlines let go of a lot of employees. Now that demand is back, they are struggling to re-staff.
On top of that, airlines are facing an increase in fuel charges due to the War in Ukraine.
“Jet fuel is about a third of most airlines' operating expenses,” Orlando said.
A look at current jet fuel prices according to Airlines for America’s April statistics, shows they are the highest they’ve been since 2008.
“So they're saying, ‘Listen, if there's a route that's not profitable, right now, are we gonna fly, are we gonna run that fuel and not be profitable? We're not going to fly it.’ So they’re trimming schedules in that way,” Orlando explained.
Finding a cheaper flight isn’t impossible, it’s just going to be rare and require some dedication.
“Good example, down there in Tampa, you got a new budget airline he recently called Breeze. They're a pretty good quality airline, kind of Jetblue quality. They offered a $78 round trip fare between Tampa and Charleston just yesterday,” Orlando said at the end of April. “That kind of deal won't last more than two days.”
Some tips to save on airfare tickets:
- Plan early
- Set a flight tracker, on Google for example, for the destination and dates you’re looking for
- If you can, be flexible — work remote and fly on off-peak days like Tuesday or Wednesday
- Calculate if using a day off from work would cost you less than traveling on Saturday and Sunday
“As soon as you see that price drop, book it,” Orlando concluded. “The one thing I always tell everybody is under federal law you have 24 hours to cancel without penalty after booking a flight within or to or from the US. So instead of like calling up your loved ones calling your friends trying to get all your ducks in a row and then missing that fare, just book it.”
In addition, international travel is still significantly down. Orlando said more people would travel if there wasn’t a COVID-19 test requirement.
AAA also said that more people are opting to stay closer to home where they can drive the whole family.
Fuel prices are about 45% more than what they were last Memorial Day. Last year the average was $2.86 a gallon, this year it’s about $4.17, according to Jenkins.
Budgeting ahead of time to save money during the trip like a cheaper hotel or packing food for snacks and meals can also help.