Flying soon? Airfares are not only high this summer, they are at record highs according to national indicators, and the outlook from here does not appear rosy.
Consider that while the Consumer Price Index’s estimate of 8 percent has been frequently cited as evidence of inflation in recent months, there are still a number of consumer expenditure categories that well exceed that number — notably the cost of airline tickets.
The consumer price index for airplane tickets has increased by 25 percent in the past year, which is the biggest increase since monitoring that index started in 1989. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the cost of air travel increased by 18.6 percent in just April alone.
At the same time, as Americans continue to struggle with 40-year highs in inflation measures, airlines cannot meet the demand they are experiencing, as often witnessed in delays, cancelations, and overall chaos at airports, especially during high travel times. Then there are spikes in jet fuel afoot (IATA reports an increase of 150 percent between 2022 and 2023) as airlines also struggle with a lack of pilots, air traffic control personnel, and other staff shortages.
As this past Fourth of July holiday approached, the American Automobile Association anticipated another record to be broken by air travel, with 4.17 million Americans flying, up 6.6 percent from 2019 and 11.2 percent from 2022 (3.91 million people flying last summer at this time). The 8.2 percent share of air passengers (total) in the holiday forecast this year was noted as the highest in 20 years.
“Travel demand has been steadily increasing since 2020, and this summer is poised to be one for the record books. Air travel is seeing the biggest spike despite high ticket prices. Passengers are paying 40 percent – 50 percent more for flights compared to last year, but AAA data shows bookings aren’t slowing down,” notes Aixa Diaz, Media Relations Manager for AAA.
As a AAA tip, she suggests not checking luggage to save time and money, as taking carry-on bags only allows for flexible pivots if a flight is delayed or canceled.
The folks at CheapAir.com go a step further. They suggest reconsidering the gateway and using a less expensive departure airport, especially if heading to Europe.
The discount air website compared 128 million domestic flights in markets across the United States, focusing on metropolitan areas where passengers were paying the most for international air ticket departures. They also looked at which international regions were seeing the biggest changes in airfare.
According to the study, international air tickets are up an average of 18 percent, or about $168 per ticket, over 2022. And the top five U.S. cities with the largest international fare spikes, on average, compared to 2022 include:
- Philadelphia, PA: 23.5 percent increase
- Miami, FL: 23.4 percent increase
- Tampa, FL: 22.2 percent increase
- Charlotte, NC: 22.1 percent increase
- Fort Lauderdale, FL: 21.5 percent increase
As to where U.S. flyers travel, at least internationally, the study found the destination makes a difference in how high a fare they may pay.
For instance, the South Pacific/Oceania region, which includes destinations like Australia and New Zealand, is showing a 3 percent decrease in price on average. Other international gateways? Well, not so much:
- Europe: 23.0 percent increase
- Canada: 22.4 percent increase
- Asia: 21.9 percent increase
- Middle East: 20.8 percent increase
- Central America: 20.6 percent increase
- South America: 20.3 percent increase
- Caribbean: 17.9 percent increase
- Africa: 17.1 percent increase
- Mexico: 14.8 percent increase
Tips to Beat the Surge
To hedge against these hikes, advisors at CheapAir suggest:
Start the search early: The best way to secure affordable international airfare is to research the best time to buy and book in advance to increase your odds of securing lower fares.
Remember seasonality: Airfare prices increase during favorable seasons. Destinations in the northern hemisphere are most popular in June, July, and August, while good weather in the southern hemisphere is often in December, January, and February.
Depart midweek: Flying out on a Tuesday or Wednesday is the least expensive day to take a flight.