Flying home for the holidays will cost you more this year

David Koenig Ap Airlines Writer
Monday, November 14, 2022
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Arriving passengers move toward the baggage claim area at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia on Friday, July 1, 2022. Travelers will probably pay more for airline tickets or a hotel room around the holidays than they did over last Thanksgiving or Christmas.
AP PHOTO

People still looking to book trips home to visit family or take a vacation during the holidays need to act fast and prepare for sticker shock.

Airline executives say that based on bookings, they expect huge demand for flights over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Travel experts say the best deals for airfares and hotels are already gone.

On social media, plenty of travelers think they are being gouged. It's an understandable sentiment when government data shows that airfares in October were up 43% from a year earlier, and U.S. airlines reported a combined profit of more than $2.4 billion in the third quarter.

Part of the reason for high fares is that airlines are still operating fewer flights than in 2019 even though passenger numbers are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Fewer flights and more people looking to head home or take vacation for the holidays

means two things: Prices will be higher, and we will see flights sell out for both holidays,” says Holly Berg, chief economist for travel-data provider Hopper.

Yulia Parr knows exactly what Berg is talking about. The Annandale, Virginia, woman struggled to find a reasonably priced flight home for her young son, who is spending Thanksgiving with his grandmother in Texas while Parr visits her husband, who is on active military duty in California. She finally found a $250 one-way ticket on Southwest, but it's not until the Tuesday after the holiday.

Parr figures she waited too long to book a flight.

“My husband's kids are flying home for Christmas,” she said. “Those tickets were bought long ago, so they're not too bad.”

Prices for air travel and lodging usually rise heading into the holidays, and it happened earlier this year. That is leading some travelers in Europe to book shorter trips, according to Axel Hefer, CEO of Germany-based hotelsearch

company Trivago.

“Hotel prices are up absolutely everywhere,” he said. 'If you have the same budget or even a lower budget through inflation, and you still want to travel, you just cut out a day.”

Hotels are struggling with labor shortages, another cause of higher prices. Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, which owns travel-search sites including Priceline and Kayak, says one hotelier told him he can't fill all his rooms because he doesn’t have enough staff.

Rates for car rentals aren’t as crazy as they were during much of 2021, when some popular locations ran out of vehicles. Still, the availability of vehicles is tight because the cost of new cars has prevented rental companies from fully rebuilding fleets that they culled early in the pandemic.

U.S. consumers are facing the highest inflation in 40 years, and there is growing concern about a potential recession. That isn't showing up in travel numbers, however.

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