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Ouch: US airfare spikes 18%, the highest one-month jump ever

May 11, 2022
3 min read
Ouch: US airfare spikes 18%, the highest one-month jump ever
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Already expensive airfares are getting even more expensive.

New government data released Wednesday showed airfare jumped 18.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis from March to April, one of the largest categorical increases in the entire consumer price index and the largest-ever month-over-month increase for airfare. The spike from March to April follows another large jump — 10.7% — from February to March.

The "sold-out summer" is already well underway.

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Airfare is skyrocketing for a few reasons, perhaps most importantly because the public is not resisting the higher fares — both at full-service network carriers such as Delta Air Lines and ultra-low-cost carriers such as Frontier Airlines. Airlines took a massive hit to their balance sheets during the COVID-19 pandemic and are taking advantage of very high demand to boost fares to shore up balance sheets and retire debt.

“We haven’t seen a lot of resistance to the price points that we have in market, and our goal is to have reasonable price points in market up to day of departure,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein said at last month's earnings call, adding that the company believes its customers are willing to pay more for a higher level of service compared with its competitors.

At Frontier, the average customer paid just shy of $70 in ancillary charges — things like bag fees and seat selection — in the first quarter, 21% more than passengers spent in the first quarter of 2019.

Airlines are also facing high jet fuel prices due to both the war in Ukraine and more normal market fluctuations — and are passing some of those higher costs on to consumers.

Finally, capacity is becoming constrained for multiple reasons, which naturally leads to higher fares when demand stays strong. American Airlines is being forced to run a smaller summer schedule because some of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners it has on order are being held up pre-delivery by the Federal Aviation Administration for quality and safety reasons. United Airlines just suspended seven long-haul routes for June because some of its older Boeing 777s continue to be grounded — well after the airline anticipated their return. Also, an ongoing pilot shortage means that airlines are also being forced to trim the schedules of the regional airlines that operate flights for them.

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More: Why are airfare and hotel rooms so expensive right now?

This would all normally create a bleak picture for airlines. But with consumers willing to go along with the higher fares — for now, at least — it's actually good business for airlines, which are now largely expecting quarterly profits for the rest of 2022 — their first real stretch of profitability since 2019.

If you're looking to book travel, prepare for some sticker shock. The best advice we have right now is to be flexible if possible, and search around for various dates and trip lengths before booking your flights.

Delta's Hauenstein agrees.

“If you’re looking for lower fares, you have to be flexible in terms of which days you’d be willing to fly,” he said.

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Steep $550 annual fee
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  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more