Ample evidence continues to pile up that we’re finally coming to the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. People are talking about traveling – and not “if” they can travel, but when.
Airfare couldn’t be more reasonable right now, with summer flights to typically expensive destinations priced out nicely. But here’s the thing. The low fares aren’t going to last. And when they go they’re going to go fast.
This is what we know. The airlines are still flying at a restricted capacity, with much of their fleets grounded due to the extremely low numbers of travelers over the past year. But last week saw the busiest domestic air travel day since the pandemic started. On Saturday, March 27th, according to CBS News, about 1.4 million people passed through U.S. airports. On the same date in 2019, the number was about 2 million. And the previous 17 days were all 1 million traveler days as well.
At the moment, the airlines are seeing about 66% of pre-pandemic levels, but it certainly seems like we’re on a trajectory to meet projected levels of air travel this summer – experts say we might hit 95% of pre-pandemic levels of air travel before the summer is over.
Here’s what that means for airfares. Even though average airfares remain uncharacteristically low at the moment, it’s just a matter of time before the prices spike. And they might spike hard. Here’s why. Demand may soon outstrip air travel supply.
A lot of the airlines issued vouchers when people canceled flights during the height of the pandemic. Some of those vouchers start to expire in 2021 (about 55% of those issued in 2020). People will want to use the credit before they lose it. Book that flight now so you don’t compete with those ticket holders!
Also, most domestic airlines instituted no fees for cancelation or changes during the pandemic, an unprecedented move. Guess what? Airlines with “Basic,” bare bones fares are bringing back the fees. Sometime in April, Jetblue, American and Delta will all start to charge change and cancelation fees again. United hasn’t committed to a policy change beyond March 31 as of yet. Take advantage of more flexible fares before they go bye-bye. One small silver lining – the other classes of service will retain liberal change and cancellation policies FOR NOW.
Check out our Summer Flights page. We share the best and worst days to fly this summer, based on price. It will help you plan out your vacation logistics. But here’s a sneak peak. Prices are overall much less expensive than summer months typically are. Just one more reason to hop on that great fare before it starts to climb. Until then, take a look at our post on how to plan your first post-pandemic trip. We’ve got lots of tips to share that can help ease you back into traveling in 2021!