If you have traveled this summer, you are well aware of the high costs of airfare.
When it comes to air travel, flight price spikes are being driven by inflation, jet fuel shortages and an increase in travel demand, The Charlotte Observer reported.
The sticker shock suffered by many travelers comes on the heels of the pandemic when a drop in the average airfare became the norm for about a year.
According to data from the Bureau of Transportation, airfares at Charlotte Douglas International Airport fell from an average of nearly $400 per ticket in the first quarter of 2020 to around $280 in the fourth quarter of the year.
Data from the first quarter of 2022 reveals that the average airfare at Charlotte Douglas International Airport is now $380, 14% higher than the national average.
The Transportation Bureau has yet to release airfare averages for the second quarter of 2022, but prices that have been tracked through the U.S. Consumer Price Index fell 1.8% from May to June, Bloomberg reported.
According to a third-quarter report from Hopper, a travel booking company, air fares are expected to drop more dramatically this month. The advance would provide a well-deserved break for travelers thanks to an expected 25% decrease from airfare averages at the start of the summer.
“Prices this summer have been elevated beyond normal seasonal airfare increases due to high jet fuel prices and pent-up demand resulting from two depressed summer seasons, and traveler demand peaking earlier in the summer than during of a normal year,” the report said.
“Flight prices drop seasonally from late August to mid-October, with demand waning after the peak holiday months of May, June and July. This year’s decline is larger than usual due to abnormally high summer prices and earlier peak demand,” Hopper reported.
The window of time to take a break won’t last forever, Hopper suggested in the report. According to the company’s forecast, airfares will return to summer figures by the time the holiday season rolls around.
As for long-term economic healing, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC that travelers should expect another full year of air travel problems.
“Our baseline assumption is that it will gradually improve and we won’t be back to normal use and normal staffing levels until next summer,” Kirby said.
Kirby said the main drivers of the prolonged misery of travel are staff shortages and the current trend for airlines to cut destinations from their schedules in an effort to reduce rising delay and cancellation rates.
United last month cut 50 domestic flights from its hub airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Travel + Leisure reported. In addition, the airline has reduced the frequency of flights to a number of destinations. Additionally, routes to Flagstaff, Arizona and Texarkana, Arkansas have been canceled. A similar decision is expected to be made for routes to Los Angeles and San Diego in October.
As to why airfare is still relatively expensive amid cancellations of economy routes, Kirby said costs will remain in the works when United is ready to operate fully again.
“All the costs (of plane tickets) are still there because we are ready to be a much bigger airline, we have the people to be a much bigger airline, but we are going to be an airline smaller until the system can support it,” Kirby said.