It’s been an unusual year for airline ticket prices – unusual and expensive – but relief is on the way.
Prices Drop Sharply Aug. 20/21
While airfare prices typically drop at the end of the summer season, this year fall starts a little early – on August 20 or 21, depending on the airline – which is when many carriers will drop prices on their cheapest seats by 10% to 20%.
Listen as FareCompare’s Rick Seaney breaks it all down for editor Anne McDermott:
Legacy Airlines End Surcharges
Most of the savings are due to the end of peak travel season surcharges which all legacy carriers added for the busy summer travel season. Once the fall season kicks in, surcharges will be dropped and low-cost carriers will match the larger airlines’ lower ticket prices by cutting their base airfares.
High Summer Prices, Resistance
Back in 2011, airlines raced through 22 airfare hike attempts then set another sizzling pace with six airfare hike attempts in the first quarter of 2012 alone. However, starting this past April, there was silence from the carriers as certain economic realities began to intrude and we began seeing cracks forming in airline expectations of packed-planes and high prices all summer long .
Economic realities include the chaotic conditions of certain European economies, slower-than-expected growth in China, and the big bellwether, the price of oil. While oil did dip below $80 per barrel earlier this year, it has once again hit the $90 mark, helping to fuel economic uncertainty.
Breaking Point on Prices
This combination of factors appears to have made airfare shoppers a little edgy, but then the airlines always knew that passengers would tell them when they’d reached their breaking point on ticket prices by staying home and that appears to be what some are doing now. This is bolstered by plenty of recent and current airline sales including one-day specials (JetBlue) and longer-than-usual sale periods (AirTran, Southwest). As a purely anecdotal aside, over the past three years, I – an elite miles member – failed to get any last-minute seat upgrades, but managed to snag three in the past couple of weeks alone.
Pro-active Airfare Shoppers Will Find Deals
Travelers hoping to fly in late summer or fall are urged to be pro-active and get their tickets without delay since, as always, the cheapest sale seats are limited to only about 10% of a plane’s capacity.