It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Flight prices are absolutely bonkers right now. You’re not wrong, at all. They’re trending 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
You can blame pent up demand, global inflation, oil prices, war, or airlines for feeling like we owe them one, but the end result is all the same. Flight bargains are few and far between, and that’s particularly true for anywhere in summer 2022. They do exist though.
This trend of borderline absurd pricing prompted many readers and also many of my close personal friends to ask me a very simple, but very loaded question lately: is it worth biting the bullet now, or waiting? Here’s my best advice.
Many Things Are Making Flights Expensive
Why are flights expensive right now? Take your pick. Oil prices are certainly playing a role, as are two years of pent up travel budgets with rabid demand during any break.
Add in huge shifts in air travel trends, such as leisure travelers “trading up” to better experiences in premium and business class, and you start to get the gist of why things are really complicated. Ultimately, many of these things are temporary though.
Oil prices likely won’t remain where they are forever and demand will soon return to some level of seasonality, rather than the fervent excitement its experiencing for any dates right now. It’s understandable: mask mandates are being repealed, testing is dropping and countries are reopening. People want in.
So, should you buy now to avoid getting gouged further, or wait? The answer is all about when you plan to travel and where. Sorry, there’s no one size fits all, but there’s a logic to it.
Summer 2022 Is Going To Be Crazy
Despite a lack of eloquence, “crazy” is probably the best word to describe what we’re going to experience with air travel for summer of 2022.
Countries which have been closed for years are opening again. Countries which were open but only via painful restrictions are ditching those restrictions and people need a break.
Couple that with “work from home” induced cabin fever, airline credits from cancelled trips and a desire to connect with places, friends and loved ones around the world and just about anywhere you want to go is going to be busy.
After two years of record losses, airlines are also somewhat understandably going to take every chance to squeeze every cent out of everyone who lacks flexibility to travel during shoulder season or the low seasons.
Planes will sell out this summer and just like an Adele concert, that kind of demand drives prices to new heights. Don’t lose hope though.
Best Hope For Cheaper Summer Airfare
If you hadn’t felt the vibes yet, if you’re traveling within school breaks this summer, expect a gouge. Sorry. There are situations where booking now, or soon, during a sale could very well make sense.
It’s not entirely bad news though, so there is at least some reason for hope. That’s because airlines aren’t as big as they used to be, and need to be. As demand crumbled, airlines reduced their schedules during the last two years, which shrunk business.
A jolting rebound in travel demand means airlines will need to quickly scale up to bigger planes and more frequent flights between cities, which means there will soon be a lot more seats to fill than there are now.
With all that excess supply, more competitive pricing should be coming.
This potential for lower fares due to increasing schedules will be much higher on the routes which were worst impacted during Covid-19, which largely means international flights that once enjoyed numerous daily services.
Domestic flights which never had that many daily flights are unlikely to change much.
It could make a lot of sense to aim for places which will see the biggest return, such as once highly trafficked international routes such as New York, London, or Paris. Airlines which once offered 8 flights a day got down to 2 or 3 during tough times, so scaling up will require some compelling offers.
Best Bets To Save On Airfare In 2022
No matter how much people love the idea of savings, life brings challenges which can’t always be overcome. School schedules and work responsibilities are two prime cases.
If you want to save on airfare in 2022, the best bet is to aim for shoulder season or even better, low season. No matter what your dates, the savviest move you can make is to set flight alerts on Google Flights, or take advantage of creative tools, like Capital One and Hopper, with their prediction guarantee.
British Airways just released its luxury sale for the summer and the trends are very clear. There are no really meaningful discounts for summer, but once autumn hits in September, there are bonafide bargains to be had.
If price is the name of the game, aim for a busy well trafficked city as a jumping off point, to take advantage of airlines scaling back up. That, or travel “off peak” — aka any time other than this summer.