Prices spike during holiday travel; how is Thanksgiving affecting travel this year?

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As the holidays approach in a now post-COVID climate, people are running to buy flights, causing a spike in prices

As the holidays approach and airline service cuts from the summer continue, there are no signs of travelers getting a break from these high airline fares.

Service has been cut in half from pre-pandemic levels at 59 small and regional U.S. airports, according to the Regional Airline Association (RAA), largely because of pilot shortages and high fuel costs. “The drastic decline between 2019 and 2022 is dramatic and, if not unprecedented, only rivaled by post-9/11 loss,” said Faye Malarkey Black, the RAA’s president and CEO. And while dozens of small cities receive federal subsidies to support air travel through the long-running Essential Air Service program, Malarkey Black said even 29 of those communities are facing potential cutbacks due to pilot shortages. More cuts are expected by the year’s end.

As Americans are already facing pricier airfares this season. The travel platform Hopper has forecasted Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares to be the highest it’s been in five years, with domestic round-trip tickets averaging to over $350 over Thanksgiving and $463 at Christmas. Airfares were up by 43% in October from the same month a year ago, the latest inflation data show. One of the main reasons that these fares have gone up is a result of service cuts;. For example, Ithaca Tompkins International Airport in New York lost its twice-daily American Airlines flight to Philadelphia on Sept. 6. Hopper discovered that Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares at Tompkins were roughly twice as expensive than the national average for domestic round-trip flights on the remaining United Airlines route to Newark, New Jersey, and the Delta Air Lines route to Detroit. Round-trip Thanksgiving airfare from Ithaca to U.S. destinations is averaging $552, 39% higher than at the same time in 2019, according to Hopper. And Christmas flights from the city cost 10% more than 2019, at $605.

However, consumers appear undeterred. Nearly half of holiday travelers plan to fly, totalingor 46% of the population, up from 37% last year, according to the 2022 Deloitte Holiday Travel survey. Travel experts advise people wishing to cut costs to think about delaying their celebrations by a few days or at the very least staying away from the busiest days to avoid paying the higher rates at large airports. Hopper said it expects comparatively lower ticket prices on the Monday before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving Day and on the Friday afterward compared with the Tuesday and Wednesday of that week. AsAnd for Christmas, Hopper suggests looking at flights on the Monday or Tuesday before the holiday, which falls on a weekend this year.