Plane ticket prices continue to go up. How to save: experts

Passengers wait for their flights inside the new West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport Monday, May 24, 2021, in Los Angeles.  Airfare prices are rising amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but experts say higher prices won't stop travelers.

Passengers wait for their flights inside the new West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport Monday, May 24, 2021, in Los Angeles. Airfare prices are rising amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but experts say higher prices won’t stop travelers.

AP

Another mode of transportation has been impacted by the fallout over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as gas prices soar — and it might affect Americans’ vacation plans.

The cost of jet fuel for commercial airplanes has also spiked, with prices per gallon rising above $4 at one point since the conflict began on Feb. 24, when the average jet fuel price was $2.71 per gallon, according to the Argus US Jet Fuel Index.

Reuters reported global jet fuel oil prices have skyrocketed to a 14-year high, which is bad news for those heading to the skies.

“In addition to higher prices at the pump, jet fuel prices have also been dragged higher by surging oil prices. This raises operating costs for air carriers, which will likely lead to higher airfares,” AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins told McClatchy News.

Rising jet fuel prices means rising airfare prices for Americans, too, but since airlines buy their jet fuel in advance those in the US won’t see the increases likely for several weeks, experts told McClatchy News.

“It will cost more to fly, there’s no question about it,” Mike Boyd, an aviation analyst, told McClatchy News. “We just don’t know when it’s going to happen. You can’t go over $2 a gallon for jet fuel and not have it go up.”

Boyd also predicts reduced service for flights, which may be a problem since experts are seeing a huge increase in demand for travel.

Air travel demand has gone up drastically due to relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, as well as just a pent-up demand for traveling after two years of the pandemic.

“People have not been traveling in 2020 and 2021. They really, really want to go,” Joe Weigler, owner of Shadyside Travel in Pittsburgh, told McClatchy News.

This, along with increasing jet fuel prices, will lead to higher airfare prices overall, experts say.

“I think demand is driving rates almost as much as the cost of fuel,” Travis Paquin with 417 Travel in Springfield, Missouri, told McClatchy News.

Americans shouldn’t expect prices to come down anytime soon, especially with a high travel demand that is meeting pre-pandemic prices in 2019.

“It really just depends on availability, you know, supply and demand,” Jordan Bradshaw with Northcutt Travel Agency in Houston told McClatchy News. “If people are traveling, and there’s a lot of demand, not a lot of supply, it’s going to go up.”

Americans will be traveling regardless of rising prices, some experts say. In fact, travelers may choose airfare instead of driving because of the sky-high gas prices.

“A lot of people that used to take long road trips are not doing that now,” Weigler said. “And they’re actually flying to a destination.”

Others say the higher prices won’t stop people from traveling, but will change where they travel.

“If you want to travel, you’re going to travel,” Bradshaw said. “I think it just kind of directs you to where you’re able to travel. So you know, if you want to go to say St. Lucia, but the airfare is really high. So you maybe say ‘Okay, well, I’m gonna go to Cancun instead, because it’s a little bit lower.’ So someone’s wanting to travel. I don’t think airfare airfare pricing is going to deter them from traveling, it is going to control where they’re able to go.”

Many who have been itching to travel for two years will likely accept the higher fares.

“As far as getting on an airplane and taking a honeymoon or that family vacation or that spring break trip that a lot of families have missed for the last two years — no, cost is not slowing that down,” Paquin said.

But still, Boyd believes some will not travel if jet fuel prices climb high enough.

“If it goes up high enough people may not go to Boca for a vacation,” the aviation analyst said. “They may want to buy groceries instead.”

How to Save

Even with higher prices that aren’t deterring some travelers, there are still ways to save.

Experts agree that the main way to save money with airfare travel is to buy as soon as possible, and to take advantage of airline schedules that release flights nearly a year in advance.

“The sweet spot is typically six months to five months out. You want to make sure you’re going to lock in the price because if it just goes up from there, you’re gonna be stuck with that higher airfare,” Bradshaw said.

Some airlines, like Southwest Airlines, have deals you can watch for ahead of time, experts say, adding you should join loyalty programs wherever you can.

Additionally, experts say it’s largely a myth that tickets can be significantly cheaper on average depending on the day you buy them. However, they say, it is true that tickets can be cheaper depending on the day you board your flight, including on slower travel days like Monday or Tuesday.

Travelers can also hire a travel advisor to get them the best deals or vacation packages possible.

Websites like Hopper show you the cheapest flights possible and predict if the prices will go down — or if you should buy right away.

But overall, the resounding advice is to not wait if you are going to travel. If you see a good deal, grab it then.

“If you don’t book it, someone else is going to,” Paquin said.

Mariah Rush is a National Real-Time Reporter. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and has previously worked for The Chicago Tribune, The Tampa Bay Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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