Average airfare up 40% over last year amid holiday travel

MIAMI (NewsNation) — Amid airlines and airports preparing for a surge in passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday, inflation is taking a bigger bite out of travelers’ budgets.

Nearly 55 million Americans will take to the roads, skies and rails for the holiday, with air travel recovering to about 99% of the 2019 levels before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel group AAA estimates.

Weary of coronavirus-related lockdowns, Americans are eager to travel more as the impact of the pandemic eases. However, staffing and aircraft shortages have capped the airline industry’s ability to ramp up capacity, resulting in fewer seats and higher fares for travelers.

As millions head to different destinations, most feel the same about how much it costs to get there.

“Much more expensive,” said Michelle Maloy, a holiday traveler.

“Flights have been astronomical forever,” said holiday traveler Safiya Ransome.

Reduced flights and booming demand, meanwhile, have sent airline fares soaring. Domestic airfare for Thanksgiving is 17% higher than last year and in line with 2019 prices, according to the travel app Hopper. International airfare is 30% higher than in 2019.

There is also a rise in demand for less expensive travel options including buses and trains.

According to GasBuddy, prices will be at their highest seasonal level ever for Thanksgiving; regular unleaded is nearly 30¢ higher than last year.

“Prices across the board. No matter what you’re trying to do when it comes to travel. We’re just not seeing the discounting that we saw once upon a time,” said Clint Henderson, managing after at The Points Guy. “Even getting to the airport these days, parking rates have gone up…”

More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train or cruise ship, AAA estimates. That is an increase of 23% from 2021 and represents 96% of the 2019 volume.

The ratio between bus and train bookings has shifted from approximately 50/50 in 2021 to 65/35 in 2022, according to the ground and air travel booking site Wanderu.

“Buses have never been more competitive in the travel space as they are now,” intercity bus service FlixBus said in a statement to Reuters. The company this year received Thanksgiving travel bookings as early as June, three months earlier than in 2019.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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