According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of airfare in the US is set to increase at nearly four times the rate of inflation in 2022.
Statistics show that airfares increased by 28.5% during the year. The overall Consumer Price Index projected to increase by 6.5% in 2022.
Meanwhile, air traffic at the country’s airports began returning to pre-pandemic levels. According to Transportation Security Administration data, more than 900 million passengers will be screened at US airports in 2022.
AAA senior vice president of travel Paula Twidell said a combination of increased demand, higher jet fuel costs, inflation and fewer airline staff have made airfare more expensive. He said many airlines have cut down on the number of flights and given incentives to pilots and airline staff to retire. Given that airlines use dynamic pricing for flights, running fewer routes makes things more expensive for passengers.
“Travel is back, people are leaving and they want to get out,” she said. “Bookings are coming in steadily, but you will see a lot of growth. We have seen more growth through 2022. We will see some increase in prices, maybe not dramatically, but not going down.
“The airlines are probably perfectly happy at the higher price because they’re not losing money on that,” he said. “They can put out more flights, and the price will be cheaper for you and me, but they’re not going to do as much on the margin.”
Those price hikes have been specifically clarified for international travelers. There was a more delayed return to international travel demand than domestic due to COVID-19 restrictions.
His advice for travelers is that if you “see a deal, get it.” Twidell said she is flying to Europe in June and has already opted to buy her tickets. Given that the supply of seats is limited, she suggests waiting to buy tickets could be risky. Twidell said flights for the summer have already started selling out.
His advice, he said from his decades of experience, is not to wait.
“Don’t wait thinking you’re going to get a better deal,” she said. “I booked seven, eight months ahead of time. I would never have done that before. I wouldn’t book a month ahead, but I wouldn’t book eight or nine months ahead either, especially if the prices are high.
In some cases, mass air travel has been disrupted due to staffing, computer malfunctions and other issues. Whether these costs are passed on to the consumer or not remains to be seen.
But if demand remains high, airlines have little incentive to lower prices.
“Right now, people are paying,” Twidell said. “I live in South Florida. Places are packed. Restaurants are packed. Prices are going up but people are still paying. They say the recession, at some point, will be a tipping point. But for people with money , they’re still paying.”