Apr 13, 2022 - Economy

Americans rush to buy plane tickets despite rising prices

Illustration of a pattern of airplanes.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Travelers shouldn’t expect any elbow room this summer — flight bookings are at record levels, Delta said Wednesday in its earnings report.

Why it matters: Americans are shrugging off the pandemic and gearing up for a summer travel bonanza, even as inflation pummels road warriors and flyers.

  • “With the rebound in demand, the month of March was the best cash sales month in Delta's history, outpacing our prior record from spring of 2019 despite offering 10% fewer seats,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian told investors in a conference call.

The big picture: Business travel is still ailing, but leisure travel is outpacing pre-pandemic levels despite a 10.7% increase in airline fares from February to March.

  • “It’s not just Delta. You’re seeing that basically across the board,” Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, tells Axios. “You’re especially seeing that on routes toward vacation favorites.”

Threat level: Pilot shortages threaten to lead to chaos for the onslaught of travelers if airlines can’t meet demand.

  • JetBlue announced this week that it’s cutting up to 10% of its summer schedule.
  • Alaska Airlines said last week it’s slashing 2% of its flights through June.

Yes, but: Those cuts are coming in advance of the summer travel season, so airlines may be better prepared than they were when the Omicron variant of COVID sickened airline staff, leading to widespread cancelations in the winter, Keyes says.

  • “The airlines that are seeing impending staffing shortages are starting to make their cuts now rather than wait until the last minute,” Keyes says.

The bottom line: It doesn’t look like much can stop Americans from traveling this summer.

  • “There appears to be no concerns, candidly, about any variant or the virus,” Bastian told the Wall Street Journal. “Everyone is ready to get past it.”
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