Airfare Projected to Rise Beginning in February
Those planning to take a trip this summer may want to book their air travel sooner than later, as ticket costs are expected to increase incrementally between now and June 2017. Airfare-tracking app Hopper suggests flight prices could begin rising as soon as February, with peak rates coming in the middle of summer.
This projection is based on several factors that affect the price of flights, including seasonal demand and historical data. As it stands now, airfare is trending up by 8% compared to January 2016, but is still 9% cheaper compared to 2015. While the average flight price might be low now, it's predicted to increase the closer we get to spring break and the summer travel season. In February, prices are expected to rise by 5.4%, with the biggest spike predicted between April and May, when prices could jump by nearly 10%. The average price of a domestic flight is expected to hit $271 by June, an increase of nearly $50 compared to the January average of $222.
Demand and history are not the only things affecting the price of a flight — jet fuel costs can move the needle as well. Fuel costs also increased by 8.6% in December, but are still lower than they were three years ago. However, when jet fuel prices increase, the higher costs are generally passed on to the traveler.
Even if you're planning on redeeming travel rewards for your flight rather than paying out of pocket, it's important to understand the fluctuations in airfare. A handful of rewards programs have revenue-based award pricing, meaning the number of points or miles you pay is tied to the ticket cost. For instance, with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program, award rates correspond to the actual fare in dollars, with demand for a certain route leading to higher rates.
There is a silver lining to Hopper's report; it predicts that fares to popular warm-weather destinations — including Las Vegas, South Carolina and Florida — will decrease before the end of the month.