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Airfare is finally cheaper, but you may want to book soon

(NEXSTAR) – If you’ve been patiently waiting for the time to buy a plane ticket you may not want to wait much longer to book a flight.

Travel app Hopper said in an Aug. 8 release that the average ticket for a domestic flight was $257, 11% less than the same time last year, and, notably, less than it was at this time in 2019.

In July, the airline fare index fell 8.1% over the previous month, a fourth straight month of decline, according to the Consumer Price Index Summary released in August.

It’s welcome news for travelers who saw airfare prices skyrocket last summer.

The end-of-summer window won’t last forever, however.

Hopper expects the average fare to be around $267 in August and remain steady through mid-September, after which plane tickets will start to creep up in price. It’s worth noting that the average takes into account all flights — there are always some that are cheap and others that aren’t, even when the average is lower than usual.

The company projects that the average fare will top out at around $283 in late November or early December.

“As travelers focus on less flexible trips home for the holidays that skew heavily domestic during the holiday season, domestic prices will begin to rise,” According to Haley Berg with Hopper.

What’s behind the lower airfares?

A number of factors are at play, but there’s a basic one behind the lower domestic prices, according to the Thrifty Traveler – supply and demand.

With the pandemic sinking further into the past for many (despite a recent wave of infections), vacationers are increasingly booking international trips, forcing some carriers to drop domestic prices to fill seats, the travel site points out.

“We believed this summer we would see some of the extra COVID pent-up demand play out for those customers who were limited in being able to fly last year because fares were higher and capacity was more limited,” JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty told investors during an earnings call at the beginning of August. “Obviously, that hasn’t played out quite as we expected.”

CEO Robin Hayes echoed her comments, saying, “The fares this summer have come in lower than I think everyone in the industry had expected.”

Domestic airline capacity has also bounced back and is now above 2019 levels, according to Hopper, with the price of jet fuel nearly 30% lower than it was at the end of July 2022 (if still 37% higher than pre-pandemic levels).

So if you’re thinking about squeezing in a vacation before the holidays arrive, you may want to consider booking soon. Hopper says outdoor destinations are a notable trend this year, with domestic travelers heading to Atlantic beaches from Melbourne, Florida; to Lake Tahoe, California; Eugene, Oregon; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and to the White Mounts from Manchester, New Hampshire.


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