Lower airfares will be available in 2020, but they'll be harder to find
Next year is already shaping up to be a good one for air travelers in the U.S.
A strong economy means airlines are generally doing well financially, and for many airline passengers, that equates to a better experience on the ground and in the sky.
"When airlines make more money, they do tend to reinvest that in newer aircraft, in terminal upgrades, in new technologies and the onboard experience," Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research, told The Points Guy.
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But while airlines may be riding high, most passengers shouldn't expect any relief for their wallets.
“Airlines always try to raise fares; it’s just like in any business. You want to get more money in subsequent years than you did in past years for the same product,” Harteveldt said. “I expect that we will see airlines push through fare hikes where they can and when they can."
But those increases will mainly affect business travelers, most likely, so vacationers should still be on the lookout for good deals in 2020.
Hopper, a farecasting app that targets the leisure market, released a forecast that said its users have been finding cheap airfare so far for the new year.
"Airfare reached a four year low in 2019, with good deal round-trip domestic airfare averaging just shy of $275 per ticket, and round-trip international airfare averaging around $800 per ticket," the company said of the travel booked through its platform.
Hopper predicted discounted airfares will continue to fall in 2020, reaching an average price of $196 for a round-trip domestic itinerary.
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But, Harteveldt said, those deals may be hard to come by.
"Travelers will have to work harder to find the airfares that meet their budgets," he said. “That may mean leisure travelers will have to be more careful when they plan, perhaps more open to last-minute deals if there’s a last-minute fare sale that takes place, or taking airlines that offer less convenient flight times or airlines they might not be as familiar with.”
In 2019, low-cost carriers like Spirit, Allegiant and Sun Country all expanded their route networks. That means in some markets, even legacy airlines will have to increasingly compete on price.
“I think there will be options for the consumer to still get very good value in 2020," Harteveldt said.