Flight prices are rising, and they’re not expected to come down anytime soon. At the beginning of 2022, the flight and hotel company Hopper released its quarterly Consumer Airfare Index Report. We’re now going into the second quarter, and the latest report shows prices are reaching record highs.
In its Q1 2022 Index, Hopper expects domestic airfare to reach about $290 for a round-trip flight in late March before returning to pre-pandemic 2019 prices by April, with an average of a seven percent monthly increase until May. However, by the first week of March, flights had already surpassed 2019 prices and have reached 2018 prices. Airfare rose 12 percent in February and 19 percent in March. Overall, current flight prices for domestic airfare are up 40 percent — from an average of $235 round-trip in January to $330 round-trip. In the quarter two index, Hopper expects that prices will increase by another 10 percent by May, to $360 round trip. The good news is that if you can wait to travel domestically until the fall, prices are expected to gradually decline after June.
Trends show that travelers are booking domestic flights about 41 days in advance on average, down from 50 days pre-pandemic in March of 2019, but about the same as March 2021.
International flight prices also show a gradual increase, getting closer and closer to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, a round trip ticket would run you about $830 in late March. This year’s flight prices are around $810 round trip, a 25 percent increase from the average of $650 per round trip at the beginning of the year. Prices are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by May and then surpass them by June, reaching $940 round-trip before following the same seasonal fall trend. Travelers are booking international flights 65 days in advance, which is about the same as last year, but still down from 79 days pre-pandemic. And international seat capacity is still down 25 percent compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
Flight increases are due to a few factors. Hopper expected the price of jet fuel to increase, but the war in Ukraine has exacerbated this problem, making the price spike much quicker. Jet fuel is currently $3.07 per gallon, reaching the highest prices since January 2014. Jet fuel was only $2.20 per gallon at the start of 2022. The price spiked as high as $4.10 per gallon in early March after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. But broad reopenings of several countries in Asia as well as Australia have caused significant traffic increases. Flight hikes have also been caused by the end of the Omicron-variant wave, but if another wave from any strand were to occur, this would drastically impact prices.