Airline travel is quickly approaching the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, but travelers are paying substantially more on airline tickets.
Roundtrip flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth and Love Field are, on average, 29% higher than prices from three years ago, with the numbers for vacation hot spots like Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport or Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport as much as 80% higher, according to travel company Hopper.
According to ticketing firm Arc, the average round-trip ticket price in March was $540, up 41% from the prior year. It is the highest price for airline tickets since June 2015.
That may not even be the peak as airline ticket prices are expected to continue rising to compensate for the global increase in jet fuel prices, a pilot shortage due to strikes and labor disputes, as well as an increased cost of labor.
“The short way to say it is we are seeing a lot of strength in the fare environment with customers who frankly value the quality of product that we have and are willing to pay us to fly,” said American Airlines chief operating officer Vasu Raja during a recent earnings call. “So we’re encouraged by that and we see those trends going forward into the summer.”
The CEOs of Delta Airlines and United have also stated that they have not faced any pushback from consumers regarding the increased prices. United CEO Scott Kirby said ticket prices still have room to grow because of inflation that was not as high in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
“Another macro way to think about this is we’re just now getting back to 2019 levels of revenue,” Kirby said. “Arguably there’s another 16% to go.”
Travel experts predict that prices will continue to rise as the summer ticket buying season has already started and is going to intensify.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand there that is about to be unleashed this summer,” said AAA Spokesperson Mark Jenkins. “Despite inflation and higher gas prices, people still want to travel.”
Jeff Klee, CEO of Cheapair.com, suggests that travelers purchase tickets three weeks to four months in advance, as that gives buyers the best chance to buy cheaper tickets, with the best time being about 75 days in advance.
Unfortunately, Klee says that most of the cheapest seats have already been sold.
“If you do see something that is a good deal, jump on it, because as more tickets are sold, flights are more expensive,” he said.