Travelers wait at JFK International in New York City on Friday, ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

What will airline prices look like this summer?

Janet Nguyen May 28, 2021
Travelers wait at JFK International in New York City on Friday, ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Many parts of the economy are beginning to reopen, paving the way for people who had been cooped up in their homes to make travel plans. 

A Wells Fargo economist estimates that 4½ years of travel spending could happen within the next nine months. Low-cost airlines have entered the game, capitalizing on pent-up demand. Breeze Airways, a new carrier, had its first flight take off this week. 

Hopper, an app that predicts future flight and hotel prices, expects this summer’s domestic airfare prices, from June to August, to average $283. That would be 35% higher than last summer’s levels ($209), but down 4% from summer 2019 ($296). 

The company said airfare should peak in late June, before the Fourth of July holiday, at $293. 

Patrick Surry, a travel expert and chief data scientist at Hopper, said the country’s popular destinations right now include Las Vegas, Miami and Orlando, Florida. For international travel, Hopper estimates that summer 2021 airfare will average $775, which would be up 3% from summer 2020 ($755), but down 9% from summer 2019 ($853). 

“Obviously there’s still limited international service. So it may change as different countries start announcing their policies and opening up additional travel options,” Surry noted. 

His advice to travelers would be to book early — common guidance that’s especially applicable during this period. 

“The market is definitely picking up, particularly domestically. We’ve been recommending that people trying to travel this summer should buy by this weekend, Memorial Day,” Surry said. “We think by July Fourth, prices will be pretty much back to where they were before the pandemic.” 

Madhu Unnikrishnan, an editor at Airline Weekly and Skift, urged travelers to be flexible because routes that existed before the pandemic may be gone now, and they may have to take a more circuitous route to their destinations.  

“We’re still in a real period of uncertainty,” Unnikrishnan said, noting that airline schedules are being published only two months out. Normally, they’re published six months ahead of time. “The routes are changing a lot, and it’s really hard to say where the demand patterns will be.” 

Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst, expects it to be difficult to find hotel rooms, Airbnbs and other lodging at popular destinations that are accessible. 

“Everybody wants to go traveling — in theory,” Mann said. “And there aren’t the usual full spectrum of places to go.”

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