Airfare Forecast 2015: What You’ll Pay, How to Find Deals

2015 is almost here. Let’s see what to expect. And don’t miss my four money-saving tips at the end.

LISTEN: Airfare expert Rick Seaney is optimistic.

Ticket Prices

  • Good news: Airfare prices in 2015 will likely not rise significantly over 2014 but there will be price increases. A few cities – just a few – will probably see ticket prices drop, at least a little.
  • Bad news: Domestic airfare prices of 2014 are the highest I’ve seen in ten years.

Fuel Prices

  • Good news: Oil prices have plummeted – so far dropping roughly 45 percent in 2014 – which is good news for airlines since they will save on jet fuel.
  • Bad news: The airlines are so far not passing along this savings to passengers, except in the form of new planes with more bells & whistles. But most of those extras like lie-flat seats can be enjoyed only in business or first class.

Competition

  • Good news: Airlines have managed to survive by cutting capacity and by joining forces through mergers; recent examples include Delta/Northwest, United/Continental, Southwest/AirTran and the soon to be completed merger of American/US Airways.
  • Bad news: Mergers mean less competition. Consider that the four U.S. airlines named above now control about three-fourths of all domestic routes, and less competition provides little incentive to lower airfares.

Supply and Demand

  • Good news: Demand is steady after tough periods like post-9/11 and the recession of 2008. More people are able to fly again, as 60 million of us did on U.S. airlines in September alone.
  • Bad news: Steady demand means – again – that airlines have little incentive to lower ticket prices.

Bottom Line: You Can Still Find Deals

Yes, the airlines pretty much have everything they want but there are still ways to fly more cheaply in 2015. Much of it depends on your willingness to be flexible. Make the decision to do things a little differently and you will see savings (sometimes, a lot).

  • Fly to hotly competitive cities: We saw a good example of this in a Virgin America sale (December 2014) offering flights between Dallas and Washington, D.C. for $59 one-way. Current hot cities include Dallas (thanks to the lifting of the Wright Amendment), Boston (thanks to JetBlue) and Denver (thanks to a large number of airlines).
  • Fly off-peak seasons: January/February is a big dead zone, because few want to fly then, and when demand is down, prices drop. Other dead zones occur in the fall and the first couple of weeks in December. Winter is a dead zone for international flights; prices rise toward the end of March and again in May before the expensive summer season kicks in.
  • Fly unpopular days and times-of-day: If you can fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, you will almost always save over the expensive but traditional itinerary of Friday/Sunday flights. Time of day matters, too: Flights at dawn and red-eyes (overnight flights) are usually significantly cheaper, too.
  • Compare airfares: Airfare shopping 101 says, compare airfares. You can do it here at FareCompare, you can do it elsewhere but you must compare airline ticket prices because no single carrier always has the cheapest deals. If you don’t compare, you may pay more than you have to and I don’t want that to happen.

Tip: See more advice on shopping and saving on my blog.

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Updated: December 17, 2014