Discover why flights so expensive right now 🦠⛽️ and get insights into how the airline industry will change in 2024. Find out how to navigate high ticket prices in the post-pandemic world
Flight prices have reached shocking levels in 2023, leaving travelers wondering why flights so expensive right now. Airline fares are up nearly 20% on average compared to last year, with some popular routes seeing even bigger spikes. So what’s behind these sky-high airline ticket prices? A convergence of factors has driven airfare higher and higher.
Tips for Finding Affordable Flights in 2023 and 2024
With persistently expensive airline fares, how can you hope to find affordable flights amidst the high prices? Here are some tips:
- Be flexible on travel dates and destinations
- Check budget airlines as well as major carriers
- Sign up for fare alerts from Google Flights and Hopper
- Check back often as sales can appear anytime
- Book early while deals last – prices usually only go up
Finding good flight deals takes effort, flexibility, and patience right now. But bargains can still be unearthed by the savvy travel searcher. Follow these tips to beat the high cost of airline tickets in 2024.
Why Flights So Expensive Right Now?
Soaring Fuel Costs Burden Airlines
Oil prices inflation — Jet fuel prices have climbed over 50% since 2021, representing a major expense for airlines. Prices did fall slightly in 2022 but remain about 16% above pre-pandemic costs according to analysts. These elevated fuel prices get directly passed along to passengers in the form of pricier plane tickets.
Longer Routes Due to Closed Airspace
Russia’s war in Ukraine has also indirectly impacted airline industry. The banning of Russian airspace for dozens of airlines has forced circuitous rerouting on some international flights between Asia and Europe. These longer routes mean higher fuel burn and operational expenses for affected carriers.
Pilot and Staff Shortages Hamper Growth
Air travel demand is rebounding faster than airlines can rebuild staffing lost during the pandemic. Thousands of pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers accepted buyouts or retired early. Now airlines are struggling to rehire and train new employees in these highly complex roles quickly enough to expand flight capacity.
With fewer staff to operate planes, schedule new routes or manage traffic flows, growth remains constrained. And that limited supply amidst spiking demand allows airlines to charge higher fares.
Surging Travel Demand Outpaces Supply After COVID Pandemic
For the first time since 2019, eager travelers ready to spend are overwhelming airline seat supply. As we know, supply and demand for travel go hand in hand. Leisure travel booked solidly through summer 2022. And 2023 advanced bookings indicate no slowdown in vacations, getaways and family visits. With more flyers chasing limited flights, fares climb.
Aging Technology Compounds Challenges
Outdated airline computer systems compounded operational challenges in 2022, causing severe flight disruptions at some carriers. Critical itinerary planning, crew scheduling and aircraft routing software crashed under the strain. As many airlines invest to upgrade these aging internal technologies, some costs may pass to consumers.
The Nickel-and-Diming of Fees
Basic economy fares may seem cheap but watch out for painful airline fees. Changes, seat assignments, baggage, onboard food and more all draw extra charges that quickly mount. And budget carriers like Spirit and Allegiant pile on fees more aggressively than full-service airlines. Always factor these additional costs when comparing ticket prices.
The Comeback of Leisure Travel
One bright spot amidst the high airline fares is the powerful comeback of leisure travel. After two years of lockdowns and restrictions, pent-up demand for vacations and getaways has exploded. And while business travel still lags pre-pandemic levels, airlines are aggressively courting leisure flyers with sales and incentives.
“Leisure travelers have returned with a vengeance, and airlines are catering offers to them,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst with Atmosphere Research Group. “Now is a good time to be a leisure flyer.”
So while fares may be painfully high on some routes, keep searching for deals aimed at vacationers. Last-minute holiday weekend getaways are in reach if your schedule is flexible. The best flight deals go to those willing to grab sudden sales when airlines drop prices to fill planes with leisure flyers.
When to Book Flights in 2024
Timing your flight bookings right can help land deals even when airfares are skyrocketing. According to airfare data analysts, the prime booking window for domestic flights this year is 14-90 days before departure. You’ll typically get the lowest fares by buying 1-3 months in advance.
For international flights, the best deals are found 120-160 days pre-departure. So look 5-6 months ahead for your overseas vacation. But don’t despair if your trip is fast approaching. Last-minute flight deals always appear if you stay vigilant. Sign up for fare alerts from Google Flights or Hopper to pounce when prices dive.
Beating High Flight Prices in 2024
With the right strategies, you can still find affordable flights amidst crazy high airfares. Flexibility is key – adjust your airport, dates, and destination to capitalize on sudden sales. Here are some other ways to grab deals:
- Fly midweek instead of weekends
- Search budget carriers like Spirit and Frontier
- Split one-way tickets on different airlines
- Try alternate airports to access deals
- Set fare alerts and keep checking back
The flight deals are out there in 2023 – you just need persistence and creativity to find them. And services like Thrifty Traveler Premium can do the heavy lifting for you, sending alerts on incredible deals you’d otherwise miss. Don’t abandon your travel dreams just because the airlines have lost their minds on prices.
Why Prices Vary Wildly By Route
If you’ve searched flights recently, you may have noticed huge variances in airfare costs depending on the route. Prices on some routes are up only moderately while others have absolutely rocketed upwards.
This disparity stems from major differences in travel demand growth by market. Some leisure destinations have seen demand rebound to 150% of pre-pandemic levels while other routes lag at just 80% of past flyers. With such an imbalance between huge demand growth in some areas and meager demand in others, airfare volatility has exploded.
Navigating this route-by-route imbalance is key to finding affordable flights. Be flexible on destination and keep searching for markets with lesser price surges. Deals hide amidst the turbulence if you hunt carefully.
Cheap Flight Deals Still Exist
While flight prices may seem high at the moment, cheap flight deals are still out there for savvy travelers. Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations is key to finding lower fares. Try searching on Tuesday or Wednesday when airlines often drop prices to fill seats. Using flight deal alert services can also notify you when discounts pop up.
Sign up for fare drop alerts on Google Flights to track prices on your desired route. Or use travel deal sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights which sends members incredible flight bargains as soon as they appear. While snagging the lowest fare takes effort now,persistence pays off.
When Will Prices Finally Drop?
The big question is: when will relief come from these sky-high airline fares? Industry experts predict prices may moderate later in 2023 if demand cools and more flights are added. But most analysts doubt fares will fall back to pre-pandemic levels for at least a couple more years.
Rebuilding staff and adding aircraft takes time after the cutbacks airlines made during COVID-19 lockdowns. And if travel demand remains strong, any extra seats they add may quickly fill up anyway. So airline tickets could stay stubbornly high for the foreseeable future.
Travelers desperately want to know when they might finally see some relief from skyrocketing airfare. Industry experts foresee some moderation later in 2024 if demand stabilizes and more flights are added. But a full airfare drop back to pre-pandemic norms may take years.
But while increased competition may cool the rapid price hikes, a full reversal back to pre-pandemic fare levels could take years. Rebuilding fleet, staff, and flight frequency after deep pandemic cuts takes time. And if pent-up travel demand stays high, airlines have little incentive to slash fares.
The best we can hope for is a leveling-off from shocking price increases rather than an outright reduction. The days of $39 coast-to-coast flights may be gone unless another Black Swan event rocks travel demand. $99 basic economy could be the new $39. Budget-conscious flyers will need to temper expectations and master the latest fare finding strategies.
Rebuilding airline capacity after pandemic cutbacks won’t happen overnight. And as long as travel demand stays strong, airlines have little incentive to lower fares. Patience and flexibility are still your best bets for finding affordable flights amidst the turbulence.
Set fare alerts, check budget carriers, and be open to alternative airports and travel dates. Persistence pays off to find deals even when airline ticket prices are so painfully high.