Jan 24, 2024 - Economy

Why domestic travel is so cheap

Travelers stand at a United Airlines check-in area at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 8. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Even as Americans continue to face rising rent prices and high grocery bills, one area where they can find some relief for their budgets is airfare.

Why it matters: After both travel and ticket prices surged as pandemic restrictions eased, dropping flight prices mark a welcome trend reversal.

The big picture: Airfare prices last month were down 9.4% from Dec. 2022, and 3.6% lower than they were in Dec. 2019, according to a Nerdwallet report published Monday.

  • In fact, airfare prices have dropped 24% from their peak in May 2022, Travel + Leisure recently reported, citing an analysis from Going.com.
  • What's more, the average cost of airfare "hasn't been this cheap since 2009," Katy Nastro, a travel expert with Going.com, told CNN.

Zoom in: A variety of factors are at play in the lower airfare prices.

  • "The single biggest factor for why we see cheap flights is competition," Nastro told CNN, stressing the importance of having budget airlines to compete with major carriers and keep prices low.
  • Jet fuel prices have also dropped in recent months from their high in early 2022, when the start of the Ukraine war sent jet fuel prices surging, according to flight service company Flightworx.
  • Diane Swonk, chief economist with the Big Four accounting firm KPMG, told Travel + Leisure that lower levels of business travel as well as increased plane capacity are contributing to the lower prices.

But, but, but: The travel company Kayak noted back in November that while domestic airfare was expected to drop, international flights would see prices spike 10% in 2024 over 2023.

  • Yet increasing airline capacity could temper the rise in prices, Hayley Berg, lead economist for the travel company Hopper, recently told the New York Times.

Go deeper: Flying has gotten pretty affordable

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