If you intend to travel this year but haven’t yet purchased your plane tickets, new research suggests that you should do so right away. The Omicron variant may have hampered holiday travel plans, but experts predict that it will soon reach its peak in the United States.
Air travel demand is expected to rebound, bringing with it high airfare pricing. However, rising demand will not be the only factor driving up ticket prices, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) latest consumer price index (CPI) rose 7% over the previous year and continues to rise. Inflation has risen at the fastest annual rate in 40 years.
Hopper, a travel app that released its Consumer Airfare Index this month, predicts that domestic airfare prices will rise by 7% per month through June 2022, reaching 2019 levels by April.
“The sharp rise in airfare also takes into account that airfares are unusually cheap right now (even accounting for seasonality) due to lower demand amidst the Omicron variant,” Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper, told Fortune.
He cited increased demand, seasonal fluctuations, and the rising price of jet fuel as factors in the anticipated increase in airfare prices. Jet fuel is currently priced at $2.56 per gallon, the highest level since 2014.
“We saw a 60% increase in jet fuel prices over the course of 2021, from $1.34 per gallon at the start of the year,” Damodaran said. “We anticipate that higher jet fuel prices will contribute to higher consumer airfare in 2022.”
In January 2022, the average cost of a domestic roundtrip flight in the United States (regardless of destination or origin city) was a near-record low of $234, while the average cost of roundtrip international airfare was a historical low of $649.
Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, told Fortune that his company’s analysts expect great deals on international flights to continue at least through this winter, though average airfare pricing in 2022 is likely to be higher than in 2021.
And, according to the site’s analysis report ‘State of Cheap Flights 2022,’ a surge in last-minute flight deals is expected to continue. Whereas last-minute flights used to be more expensive before the pandemic, airlines are now lowering last-minute prices in an effort to fill empty seats.
“Airfare is the single most volatile purchase most Americans make, and so while many people will overpay for flights this year (and thus bump up average airfare), that doesn’t mean cheap flights will disappear.”Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights