Why Airfare Is Soaring So High and 7 Secrets for Paying Less

Demand for air travel is strong, but can Americans continue to afford it?

New data shows that as of September, airfare rose 42% over the previous year. The ghastly increase can be attributed to a few factors including the high demand (a double-edged sword) and the rise in the cost of fuel, as well as a shortage of pilots. 

“There’s also, if you can believe it, a shortage of planes across some airlines,” said Roger Broussard, a professional pilot and the CEO and founder of Pilot School Hero. “In essence, it’s harder now for an airline to lay on a flight than it was in 2019, and there’s less capacity across the industry, which, combined with a sudden and dramatic surge in demand, was always going to lead to price increases across the board.”

Despite the skyrocketing prices for airfare, there are ways to save on your next round trip. 

Book Well in Advance 

“The sooner you book your flight, the better,” said James Brad of Travare. “Airfares often increase the closer you get to your travel dates.

Track Price Changes 

“Use apps like Hopper or Skyscanner to track fluctuations,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “Part of planning ahead is going to be using apps like Hopper or Skyscanner, because they’ll allow you to track specific routes and help you to know when you should book your trip. These apps will tell you when it’s best to book or if you should wait as a rate may be likely to drop, all of which can help to remove some of the stress of booking a trip.”

Make Your Money Work for You

“Use Google’s little-known but amazing ITA Matrix,” said Nate Hake, founder and CEO of Travel Lemming. “Most people don’t know about it, but it’s actually the best site for finding deals. ITA Matrix is owned by Google, and the underlying technology is actually what powers many other popular airline search engines. While it’s not quite as slick an interface as the better known sites, it’s more powerful and I’ve used it to find many great fares over the years.” 

Clear Your Search History 

“Clearing your cache and cookies, or searching in incognito mode, ensures you’re not being tracked while shopping,” said Christina Hubbell of Upaway. “This eliminates opportunities for airlines to increase fares based on your search history — as they know where you’re needing to travel and jump at any opportunity to lock you in at a higher rate.”

Work With a Travel Agent 

“A travel agent can always help to navigate different airline fares and routes on the market more thoroughly, finding the best deal for you,” said Mercedes Zach, travel expert at ASAP Tickets, part of Trevolution Group.  

Use the Right Credit Card

“If you’re even a somewhat frequent flier, having an airline credit card or rewards credit card with redeemable miles as an option is an excellent way to save money on flights,” said Jon Stephens, director of operations at Snowshoe Vacation Rentals

Fly To Major Hubs

“Consider flying to a major airport hub and then change over to land transport,” said Rax Suen, a backpacker who runs the travel website NomadsUnveiled. “This is particularly effective for a large part of Europe where there are quite good train and bus routes. Flights to major airport hubs tend to be cheaper. So you can combine flight and land transport for an overall lower price than a flight to a smaller airport. For example, If you are aiming to visit Brussels, maybe take a flight to Frankfurt first and then take a train or bus to Belgium.” 

Make Your Money Work for You

Plan Your Trip Around Your Flights 

“Before you pick travel dates or plan any of the details of your trip, search for flights first,” said Dan Meyer, the founder and director of Back&Pack. “In other words — if you can be flexible — plan your activities around the cheapest airfare you find. It sounds so simple, but this change in mindset can often save travelers hundreds of dollars.”

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