Airfare Still Low, But Rising Quickly as More Americans Travel

flight attendant standing in the aisle of an airplane
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If you’re thinking about booking a flight to take advantage of rock-bottom, coronavirus-era airfares, you better get busy. A recent uptick in the number of flights being booked, spurred on by hopes that nationwide vaccinations will make it safe to travel again, has been pushing fares higher.

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CNBC recently reported that searches for summer travel have risen 27% each week since President Biden announced that all American adults will be eligible for vaccines by May, according to Kayak, a travel search site. Meanwhile, airfares for the 100 top search destinations in the United States have risen 7% month-over-month.

Data from airfare tracker Harrell Associates found that the average minimum domestic leisure fare covering 300 different routes was $59 for the week of March 15, 2021, CBS News reported. That was up 14% from the $52 average for the week of March 16, 2020. The average minimum domestic fare represents the cheapest available one-way ticket price on the market.

Those price hikes are being driven by a similar increase in airline passengers. Reuters reported that the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1.5 million passengers on Sunday — the most since March 2020. Sunday also marked the 11th straight day that the number of airline passengers exceeded 1 million.

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Despite the recent uptick, demand for U.S. air travel still lags well behind historical levels. Sunday’s number of screenings was down 30% from pre-COVID 19 levels, and demand for international and business travel remains weak, Reuters reported. Airfares are likewise much lower than they were before the coronavirus.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on air travel worldwide, with the number of U.S. airline passengers declining 60% in 2020. Airlines for America, a trade group, recently said that domestic passenger demand has fallen 47% from pre-coronavirus levels, while international travel demand dropped 68%.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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