Skip to content
Summer Vacation

Vacationers Head Back to the Skies, and So Do Airfares

Fewer routes, surging demand, and higher fuel costs add up to some serious sticker shock for flyers.

relates to Vacationers Head Back to the Skies, and So Do Airfares
Illustration: Jordan Speer for Bloomberg Businessweek

The mid-pandemic days of empty airplanes are long gone, and in their place are sky-high fares and overcrowded (maskless) flights. The top 11 US airlines will fly 12% fewer summer flights, according to data tracker Cirium, primarily because of a lack of pilots; jet fuel costs have soared; and US leisure destinations are proving to be the most sought-after spots on Earth. All of this translates to far more air travelers than there are airplane seats—a mismatch that’s sent summer fares for domestic travel up 25% from pre-Covid levels and 50% higher than last year, according to travel search engine Hopper Inc.

In April, domestic fares climbed 18.6%, the biggest monthly increase since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the numbers in 1963. According to AAA, that rise has brought the average domestic ticket price up $160, to $445. Data from booking engine Skyscanner show similar increases on long-haul international routes; prices have risen 20% since 2019, to an average of $797.