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After the airline industry's hammering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the International Air Transport Association shows domestic travel was up by 26.5% in August 2022 compared to the same time a year prior. Despite lingering volatility—namely from fuel price hikes related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as staffing shortages—cost-conscious travelers can breathe a little easier as flight prices decline.
This spring the average domestic flight cost more than $400. Now flights are on par with what they cost in previous years. Across the nation, decreases in flight costs are seen most in the Midwest and South.
Bounce analyzed plane ticket price fluctuations and sourced information to find the best deals for your next trip. Data was compiled from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Hopper to determine how domestic airfares have changed since the spring and which airports recorded the biggest fare increases in the first half of 2022, the latest data available.
Average airfare costs are based on domestic round-trip fares unless the passenger booked a one-way ticket. The average includes the ticket value in addition to taxes and fees. It does not include optional service fees such as baggage fees or the use of frequent-flier miles.
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Average domestic airfare prices are down 20%
After two years of consumers forgoing trips because of the pandemic, domestic travel saw an uptick of people traveling for Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays this year. Prices spiked this spring and have since returned to more normal ranges, even without taking into account recent inflation. Since August, rates have risen slightly at a typical seasonal pace but are still down by more than 20% from the May high.
Airport delays and cancellations varied across the country due to staff shortages as pilots reached their workday limits. Some flight prices came down due to fewer scheduled flights, but that could change during the holiday season. For carriers such as American Airlines, revenue from summer travel was up by 13% compared to the same time period in 2019.
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Phoenix Sky Harbor saw the largest price spike in late spring
This spring, airplane travel got off to a rocky start with major flight delays, cancellations, and costly airfare prices across the country. The surge in airfare pricing was mainly due to the heightened fuel costs.
Costs of domestic flights this spring were up between 3% to 24% from the end of 2021 at airports with more than 100,000 annual passengers, with a median increase of 15%.
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Comparison shopping is key for finding deals
It takes patience when doing comparison shopping—but it helps if you've got the right tools. Google Flights is among the most reliable and popular search engines to use meta-search data, driven by ITA Matrix, an airfare shopping tool that instantly finds prices. Kayak can also help to quickly search for prices from multiple airlines, though the cheapest flight may not always pop up.
Sites like Momondo are accessible on mobile devices, offer multi-city searches, display airlines with the least use of carbon emissions, and show the best flights with the first few rows of the plane available. Momondo also provides a specialized ranking system that shows the flight time and prices to reflect a happiness rating from 1 to 10 for that particular flight schedule. It may also be helpful to consider booking a one-way ticket with one airline and a return ticket with a different airline to help with airfare savings.
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Be flexible on timing and destinations
If time permits, you can save a lot of money by being flexible with your travel dates and times. Sometimes, booking a flight a week or even two days before or after your desired travel date can shave off some dollars. Travel experts also recommend booking morning flights during the week (before 9 a.m.) as flight prices are generally cheaper and airspace is less crowded.
You may find additional savings by flying out of a neighboring airport. With the winter holidays quickly approaching, be sure to book flights before and after the holiday week to save a few hundred dollars. For example, if booking a domestic flight for Thanksgiving, try flying out on the Monday of that same week and purchase a return ticket for a weekday of the following week.