Why flight prices are so high and summer 2022 travel is chaotic

“Please be more patient.”

That was one of the tips offered by David Pekoske, head of the Transportation Security Administration, when he was recently asked about the upcoming summer travel season.

Vacationers face a perfect storm this summer. People are venturing out again, many on their first real summer vacation since 2019, while airlines have failed to replace all the staff they lost during the pandemic, leading to delays and cancellations.

Along with strong travel demand, fuel prices are pushing air fares this summer to the highest prices in more than five years, according to Hopper, an online travel site that analyzes prices.

“It’s going to be very crowded and very expensive,” said Brett Keller, chief executive of travel site Priceline.

His advice: book early, consider flying into smaller, less busy regional airports, and be flexible about the days you plan to travel.

Here are six charts, using travel industry and other data, that help explain why flights are so expensive right now — and why we’re in for a chaotic summer season.

Fuel and salaries are two of the biggest expenses for airlines. Kerosene prices this summer are about double what they have been in recent summers.

And demand for air travel is on the rise: summer travelers will experience the kind of crowds not seen since 2019, before the pandemic and lockdowns crushed travel.

Pekoske, the TSA administrator, said the agency expects more than 3 million travelers to pass through US airports on at least one of the busiest days this summer, surpassing the previous record of 2.8 million per day in 2019.

The result for the average traveler this summer: flight prices from June to August are 47% higher than in 2021 and 34% higher than the same period in 2019.

Hotel prices in April more than doubled from two years earlier and are expected to remain high through the summer.

The surge in travel demand comes as airlines struggle to bring staff back to the full-employment levels they had before the pandemic. Many former airline workers who were made redundant have left the industry for less stressful and better paying jobs, industry experts say.

Bad weather and coronavirus outbreaks were behind a spike in cancellations in January, and experts say more cancellations are expected during the summer travel season.

Keller warns that without fully staffed airlines “don’t have as much slack in the ecosystem” to muster replacement pilots, flight attendants or mechanics in the event of a major storm or mechanical problem requiring additional help. .

John Jimenez, a facility maintenance worker in San Jose, was planning to take his wife and two children to Phoenix in August to meet his newborn nephew until he worked out the total ticket price for the event. plane for four people: more than $1,000.

Before the pandemic, he was paying about $115 per person round trip, about half the current fare.

“I don’t see myself spending that much on a quick trip,” he said, adding that driving in Phoenix would also be a pain in the wallet due to high gas prices.

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