Summer is supposed to be the time that airlines rip us off on price thanks to wild demand and then run to shareholders to say that they did a thing! That crass take may be crass, but it’s not wrong.
What’s surprising this year though, is that not every airline is running back from the summer with something to shout about. Many are reporting results below estimates and forecasting a bit of a cliff’s edge for upcoming shoulder season travel.
Most intriguing? Many are sharing the same point of view on why this summer hasn’t been quite the thing they dreamed of, and it’s all about aspiration.
Bucket List Travel Is Winning
If your airline flies to bucket list destinations for the US market, it’s been a good summer. British Airways is a fair example of that, with their ownership group IAG reporting a record quarter. If your airline flies to often overlooked cities in the United States, there’s been a lot less to shout about.
Airlines including Alaska, JetBlue and Frontier have each come out with explanations for their lackluster results this summer and if you synthesize it into one theme, it’s that all their customers “went to Europe” or somewhere else they’ve always dreamed of.
There are countless US cities worth a visit from Charleston to Seattle, but that kind of summer traffic just hasn’t materialized for intra-US travel. People are going big, going abroad and putting those “easier” trips off for another time.
Is this a short term shift, as people rekindle places they struggled to visit from 2020 to 2022, and were sold out of last year, or is this the new emotion in travel?
Spontaneous Travel Taking A Hit Too
Across the pond, Ryanair and EasyJet reported an excellent summer, but not one exactly as they expected. The airlines noted that the “close in” spontaneous style air travel bookings haven’t materialized.
There are plenty of ways to read this. On one hand, you could say that the stress of travel restrictions in recent years really killed the vibe for the screw it, let’s do it crowd who simply get excited and go. Another way to hypothesize would simply be price.
This will undoubtedly trigger a shift in pricing strategies and perhaps innovation as airlines look to change their fate with last minute bookings.
A Weird Time For Travel
Inflation in travel has massively outpaced inflation in other industries, so it’s possible that we’ve reached a tipping point on price. Hotels are typically giving less and charging more. A challenging summer of weather and staffing shortages have seen many dream trips marred by flight delays.
One thing is clear: patterns are shifting and if people are spending on travel right now, they’re ticking the big box items off, rather than so called anytime trips.