Is summer 2023 going to be summer 2022, the redux, when it comes to air travel?
In a lot of ways, signs are pointing to yes.
According to the latest data from online booking site Hopper, airfares are mostly up this summer, owing to high demand and limited airline capacity.
In addition, in first quarter earnings calls, both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines reported strong summer bookings, especially on long-haul international routes. Other major airlines have not yet held their Q1 earnings calls, but it’s likely that trend will be true for most if not all large carriers.
Because of changing travel trends, airlines may be more reliant than ever on the summer travel surge to boost their profits.
“Months that were historically reliant on business demand are weaker,” United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby said during the earnings call. “We believe demand is just structurally different than it was pre-pandemic.”
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Summer 2023 airfare trends
If you’re looking to travel abroad, expect to pay more.
In virtually every international market, airfares are higher for this summer than they were for last.
Flights to Europe are averaging $1,141 round-trip, 34% more than they cost last year. Asia and Oceania flights are even more expensive, at $1,784 and $1,717 respectively, according to Hopper.
Even flights to Canada are pricier than they were last summer.
Only domestic flights are seeing slightly lower fares.
“Airfare for domestic summer trips is currently trending below 2022 levels, but remains higher than pre-pandemic (2019) pricing,” Hopper’s lead economist, Hayley Berg, said in a statement. “Airfare for June and July trips are (approximately) 7% below 2022 prices and are expected to remain steady until they spike in the 2-3 weeks before departure dates as is usual. Airfare is (approximately) 16% higher than 2019 levels.”
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Why are airfares higher?
It mostly comes down to supply and demand.
“Demand is contributing to higher prices as travel continues to surge post-pandemic,” Berg said. “Sustained strong demand in 2023 continues to put additional pressure on prices, especially to and within regions where travel has only recently reopened like parts of Asia.”
Other factors are driving prices up, too, including limited airline capacity, especially in the New York area, and staffing issues both at the FAA and airlines, to a lesser extent.
“International airfare remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic given low supply of seats, high demand and overall higher costs, including high jet fuel prices,” Berg said.
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