Are summer’s sky-high airfares finally dropping to a lower altitude? Yes – but don’t expect them to land (or completely return to normal), at least not quite yet. Some issues that originally caused costs to spike, such as increased fuel costs and a shortage of pilots, are going to still be around.
But fall is expected to bring some relief. According to the travel site, The Points Guy, a slight dip in airfares was recorded in a recent inflation report, amounting to 1.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. The drop in airfares is mainly because demand is starting to level off, Hayley Berg, lead economist at travel deal site Hopper, told TPG reporters:
“Now the fall shoulder season is typically a more depressed time for travel,” Berg said in an interview. “Everyone’s headed back to school, back to work for the last quarter of the year. But I think we’ll see that the fall shoulder season (September and October) is going to be more of a return to normal demand levels.”
Seasonal fluctuations are nothing abnormal; it is typical for domestic fares to peak in May or June before declining ahead of the off-peak late-summer and fall seasons.
That’s already being reflected in airfares for the fall, Berg added.
“We’re already seeing relief from those super high mid-summer airfares,” she said. “We’re expecting that airfare…will be significantly lower than the summer peak of $410 per round trip, domestic ticket. And right now, it’s averaging just under $300.”
Bloomberg reporters quoted that Delta President Glen Hauenstein as believing that with the relief in fares will come more booking activity this fall. The CEO of United, however, thinks it could take until 2023 until air travel returns to normal.
While everyone seems to have their own ideas on when to book (time of day, day of the week, etc.) in order to get the best deal, travel industry experts say that those who are anticipating traveling this fall season should start watching fares now in order to access any sales or drops in price. Waiting too long, they note, is actually counterproductive.
According to Skift, most carriers, including the Big four — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines — have either cut flights to mitigate disruptions, or loaded schedules with fewer flights than they had planned at the beginning of the year. The situation is expected to ease in the fall and winter when there is less travel demand, and training backlogs shrink.
But the streamlined services that will follow can also create a demand for seats, and affect airfares.
“Start monitoring now, but the very last-minute bookings, make those at least week to three weeks before you want to fly,” Berg told TPG reporters.
Event owners and rightsholders who are already publicizing travel tournaments can encourage participants to book travel in advance in order to access the best fares.
Constant vigilance, says the blog, Thrifty Traveler, is going to be key to getting the deals:
“Flight deals aren't going anywhere. When the pandemic first upended travel, we saw airlines slash fares to get more travelers on planes. Now, demand is bouncing back – but capacity on many major airlines is (more slowly) returning to normal, too. That means we think you can count on some big sales for the foreseeable future, even if there is an overall uptick in average fares that makes cheap prices harder to find. The cheap deals may be less frequent, but they're still out there.
Trying to predict when airfare prices will go up or down is more art than science. It can be unpredictable, given the puzzling sales we see from airlines day after day, year after year. Cash grabs, mistake fares, flash sales, and fare wars can spring up at any moment. There are still bargains to be had now for future travel. Despite some increases in flight prices and warning signs ahead, we're still bullish on the future of cheap flights as we all return to the skies in 2022.”