Airline fares soar above pre-COVID levels, bookings dip

Soaring airline prices are forcing some travelers to pull back on booking flights heading into the busy summer travel season, according to a report.

Domestic flight prices have rocketed 47% since January – eclipsing pre-pandemic levels of 2019 – because of pent-up demand following COVID lockdowns and surging fuel costs, experts said.

The higher fares caused bookings to dip 2.3% in May on the heels of a 17% drop in April, according to Adobe Digital Insights, which measured consumers transactions from six of the top 10 US airlines.

“While some consumers have been able to stomach the higher fares, especially for those who delayed travel plans during the pandemic, the dip in bookings shows that some are rethinking their appetite for getting on a plane,” said Adobe analyst Vivek Pandya.

Consumers have begun to pullback on bookings in April and May.
Newsday via Getty Images

Overall, consumers are spending and traveling more than they did on airline travel in 2019.

In May, consumers spent 29% more on tickets than they did in May 2019 and bookings were up 4.4% over the same time period. Year to date, they have spent $ 37.1 billion online for domestic flights – or nearly double what they spent in the first five months last year.

Travelers at an airport in front of a ticket agent
Consumers spent $ 37 billion more on flights this year or nearly double what they spent a year ago over the same period.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The surge in air travel has helped the pandemic-battered airlines to boost their bottom lines. In March, Delta Airlines said it returned to profitability.

“We are seeing an historic level of sales activity and booking volumes at levels higher than we’ve ever seen in our history,” Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said in April, who added at the time that consumers were not pushing back against higher fares .

Travelers wait in line to check-in at LaGuardia Airport.
Delta Airlines will cancel a number of flights this summer as it deals with operational challenges.
AFP via Getty Images

However, the airline plans to cancel a number of flights between July 1 and August 7 to address some of the operational challenges it’s been experiencing.

“More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation – weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased COVID case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups – are resulting in an operation that isn’t consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years, ”said Allison Ausband, chief customer experience officer, in a statement.


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