Here’s the latest, and it’s not happy news: On Monday, the FareCompare proprietary airfare processing system noted significant increases in domestic airline ticket prices for both business and leisure passengers.
Business travelers are accustomed to paying a hefty premium for the “luxury” of booking travel at the last minute (inside 14 days of departure) on schedule-friendly nonstop flights while leaving the cheaper seats for leisure travelers who can book earlier.
Monday, Delta initiated a domestic business airfare hike – effective immediately – of between $40 and $120 roundtrip that was widely matched by other legacy airlines in the ensuing 24 hours. This hike on walkup and last minute departures follows on the heels of a similar hike last week on business travelers who typically pay more than $800 round-trip for their tickets.
More importantly for cost-conscious leisure travelers, Monday airlines also began putting “travel date” fences on their cheapest airfare so that discounted seats could only be purchased through mid June, thereby bumping the cheapest summer ticket base prices by as much as $250 roundtrip (see the examples below for New York departures):
On top of these “base” domestic price increases for summer departures, airlines also continue to file “peak travel” surcharges for summer departure dates of between $20 and $60 roundtrip – with the higher amounts on the busiest departure days of the week.
The question for consumers is whether prices will come down in the following months as airlines begin to more actively manage summer inventory – or, on the flip side, might airfare prices get worse?
We are nearing the historical sweet spot for summer travelers looking to score a deal on domestic tickets who shop in earnest about 3-and-a-half months before departure – the time frame when airlines tend to start offering up some cheaper seats in order gauge demand in comparison to their historical booking models.
It is likely that early bird shoppers will be shell-shocked when getting quotes for summer travel so waiting may be their only option. One thing that is always helpful is to sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts and if prices on the trips you’re interested come down, we’ll let you know in real time.
Meanwhile, with volatility of jet fuel prices and the reticence of airlines to increase capacity coupled with firming demand, it is not hard to imagine a summer of some the highest airline ticket prices in years.
We’ll keep you updated.