Average Airfares Still Lower Than Pre-COVID, but Not Forever

Average Airfares Still Lower Than Pre-COVID, but Not Forever

LAURIE BARATTI | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren for CNT #Travel

It’s National Plan for Vacation Day, and travelers may be well-advised to do just that for any number of good reasons. One of them would appear to be the fact that airfares are still, on average, down from pre-pandemic prices. But, they’re fated to keep rising as travel continues its comeback in 2022.

According to the latest ValuePenguin study—which examines fluctuations in airfare since the pandemic struck—average fare costs still remain almost 20 percent lower than they were prior to COVID-19. In 2019’s fourth quarter (the last full pre-pandemic period), the average cost of a plane ticket was $373.34. But, by 2021’s second quarter (the latest data available), the average ticket cost had fallen to $299.93.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) records indicate that April 13, 2020—one month after the global outbreak of COVID-19—represented the record low for pandemic-era flying, with fewer than 90,000 passengers screened that day. Yet, 2021 saw people start traveling again and, by January 2, 2022, over 2 million people were passing through TSA checkpoints in a single day.

When COVID-19 arrived and air travel came to a screeching halt, decimating the airline industry, fare prices plummeted. But, as demand for air travel bounces back, that reduced pricing is destined to become a thing of the past. Still, ValuePenguin found that average airfare costs continue to be lower than they were pre-COVID at 98 of the U.S.’ top 100 airports.

The two U.S. airports where airfare pricing has already caught back up with pre-pandemic levels are the two seeing the greater passenger volume, both of which are in Hawaii: Kahului Airport on Maui and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole on the Big Island of Hawaii.

By contrast, the U.S. two airports where the average cost of departing flights remains the lowest are New Jersey’s Newark International and Florida’s Pensacola International, where flying out costs passengers 30 percent less on average than it did pre-COVID. It’s worth noting, however, that Newark International ranked first in another ValuePenguin study of the nation’s most miserable airports.

“It adds up that most domestic airports are keeping flight costs low to encourage domestic travel after over two years of airlines struggling to stay afloat,” said Sophia Mendel, ValuePenguin credit cards and travel rewards writer. But, she predicts that air travel demand and pricing will continue to rise in 2022, despite the ongoing pandemic and any emerging variants. “Fully vaccinated and boosted travelers who take the necessary precautions tend to feel that the risk of contracting COVID-19 while traveling is lower, and are therefore more comfortable flying,” she said.

ValuePenguin researchers calculated average airfare costs based upon data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Passenger Origin and Destination (O&D) Survey. The figures (detailed here) have been adjusted for inflation and are based on domestic itinerary fees, including taxes and fees.

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By Troy Warren

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