Why Airfare Seems Expensive and How to Save Now

We’ve been hearing from some folks bemoaning the high price of airfare (who usually go ahead and pay it anyway). There’s some good news on that front, and thanks to airfare analyst and FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney, we have some easy strategies to find cheaper flights even when the prices don’t seem so good.

Today’s Airfares vs. Historical Airfares

The Department of Transportation has just released some new airfare statistics; one in particular jumped out at us:

  • 2014 first quarter average fare: $381
  • 1999 first quarter average fare: $475 [fare is adjusted for inflation]

In other words, the 2014 figure was down almost 20 percent from fares of 15 years ago. Statistics of course only tell part of the story; fares did rise somewhat dramatically between the rock-bottom recession year of 2009 and the brighter days of 2011 (by nearly 8 percent). However, between the year 2011 and the first quarter of 2014, fares have only risen on average by about 1.2 percent. See the statistics for yourself here.

Why Airfares May Seem Expensive

A couple of reasons.

  • Peak season: We’re still in the midst of summer, peak season for airlines. They know we want to travel and charge accordingly (accordingly means as much as they can get).
  • Economy: The economy has been showing steady signs of improvement which means demand for airfare is not slacking off in the face of higher prices. At least at the moment.

How to find a cheaper deal: According to Rick Seaney, “Look for the magic date, Aug. 25; it marks the end of summer and prices drop 10 to 30 percent.” If you can fly on or after that date, you’ll find better deals than you saw in mid-summer. Note: If you do plan to fly Aug. 25, you should be shopping now.

Fall Deals – Watch for Changes

The airlines have been releasing a slew of fall deals (most good for travel starting Aug. 25) but some of the prices seem on the high side. For example, one sale features flights from Los Angeles and New York for just over $200 one-way.

How to find a cheaper deal: “Wait a couple of weeks,” advises Seaney “and watch these prices come down a bit.” He also suggests shoppers add a stop (or even two) and a hefty fare can drop by 20 or even 30 percent – or more.

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Published: July 30, 2014