Journey

One of the reasons for the high fares is that airlines still operate fewer flights than in 2019, even though passenger numbers have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Arriving passengers will head towards the Baggage Claim area at Philadelphia International Airport on Friday, July 1, 2022. AP Photo / Matt Rourke,

People who still want to book home trips to visit family or take a vacation during their vacation need to act fast and prepare for the shock.

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Airline bosses say they expect huge demand for flights on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years based on reservations. Travel experts say the best deals on airline tickets and hotels are now gone.

On social media, many travelers think they are being gobbled up. It’s understandable when government figures show airline ticket prices in October rose 43% compared to the previous year, and US airlines reported a combined profit of over $ 2.4 billion in the third quarter.

One of the reasons for the high fares is that airlines still operate fewer flights than in 2019, even though passenger numbers have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“Fewer flights and more people wanting to go home or go on holiday for the holidays means two things: prices will be higher and we will see flights sell out both holidays,” says Holly Berg, chief economist at travel data provider Hopper.

Julia Parr knows exactly what Berg is talking about. A woman from Annandale, Virginia, struggled to find an inexpensive flight home for her son, who spends Thanksgiving with his grandmother in Texas, while Parr visits her husband who is on military service in California. She finally found a $ 250 one-way ticket to the Southwest, but that wasn’t until the Tuesday after the summer vacation.

Parr thinks she has waited too long before booking her flight.

“My husband’s children are flying home for Christmas,” she said. “These tickets were bought a long time ago, so they’re not that bad.”

Prices for air travel and accommodation tend to increase with the start of the vacation, which was earlier this year. According to Axel Hefer, CEO of German hotel search company Trivago, this is driving some travelers in Europe to book shorter trips.

“Hotel prices are going up absolutely everywhere,” he said. “If you have the same budget or even lower because of inflation, and you still want to travel, you just cut one day off.”

Hotels struggle with a labor shortage which is another reason for higher prices. Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, which owns travel search engines including Priceline and Kayak, says one hotelier told him he couldn’t fill all his rooms because he didn’t have enough staff.

Car rental rates aren’t as crazy as they were during much of 2021, when some popular locations ran out of vehicles. Even so, vehicle availability is tight as the cost of new cars has prevented rental companies from fully rebuilding the fleets they pulled out at the start of the pandemic.

US consumers are facing the highest inflation in 40 years and fears of a potential recession are mounting. However, this is not seen in the travel numbers.

The number of travelers passing through airport checkpoints increased to almost 95% of traffic in 2019, according to the Transport Safety Administration for October. Tourism industry officials say vacation travel may exceed pre-pandemic levels.

The airlines have not always dealt well with large crowds, despite hiring staff to replace those who left after the COVID-19 impact. Cancellation and delayed flight rates rose above pre-pandemic levels this summer, which caused airlines to slow down plans to add more flights.

American airlines served only 84 percent. more flights in the US than in October 2019, and they plan on roughly the same proportion in December, according to travel data company Cirium. On average, airlines use larger planes with more seats this year, which partially compensates for the reduction in the number of flights.

“We definitely see a lot of strength for the holidays,” said Andrew Nocella, United Airlines’ commercial director, in the company’s results announcement in October. “We’re getting close to Thanksgiving, and our bookings are incredibly strong.”

Airline chiefs and transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg blamed each other for widespread summer flight problems. Airline CEOs say that after hiring more pilots and other staff, they are prepared for the festive crowd.

Travel experts offer tips on how to save money and avoid getting stuck as a result of a canceled flight, although the advice hasn’t changed much compared to previous years.

Be flexible with dates and even destinations, although this is not possible when visiting your grandmother’s house. In a recent search, the cheapest flights from Los Angeles to New York around Christmas were on Christmas Eve and back on New Years Eve.

Check discount airlines and alternative airports, but be aware that smaller airlines have fewer options to rebook passengers after a flight is canceled.

Fly early in the morning to reduce the risk of delay or cancellation. “If something goes wrong it tends to progress over the course of the day – it becomes a domino effect,” said Chuck Thackston, CEO of Airlines Reporting Corp., an intermediary between airlines and travel agents.

There are many theories about the best day of the week to book a trip. Thackston says it’s Sunday because airlines know that is when many price-conscious consumers shop and carriers tailor deals for them.

For the most part, airlines have shunned the price-gnawing accusations that have swirled around the oil companies – which faced another reprimand from President Joe Biden this week – and other industries.

Responsible US, an advocacy group criticizing corporations, linked airline delays and cancellations this summer to pandemic layoffs and employee mistreatment. “But overall, we’d say the aviation industry is not on the same level as large food, oil or retail in terms of gross profits right now,” says Jeremy Funk, a group spokesman.

Brett Snyder, who runs a travel agency and writes the Cranky Flier blog about air travel, says prices are high only because flights have dropped from 2019, while demand is rising.

“How is gouging?” Snyder asks. “They don’t want to go (start) empty, but they also don’t want to sell everything for a dollar. It’s the basic economy. “

Travelers are making sacrifices to keep their travel costs down.

Sheena Hale and her daughter Krysta Pyle woke up at 3am and left their home in northwest Indiana an hour later for the 6:25 flight to Chicago last week.

“We’re exhausted,” said Hale after the plane landed in Dallas, where Krysta was competing in the cheerleading competition. “We started early because early flights were much cheaper. Flights are way too expensive.

They’re not going anywhere for Christmas.

“We don’t have to travel. We stay at home with the family, ‘said Hale.

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