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Airfares are on the rise, but it’s still the ‘golden age’ of cheap flights

If you’ve recently considered booking a flight for a summer vacation, you know airfares have gone through the clouds. Airline prices have risen 25% in the past twelve months, including an 18.6% jump in April alone – the biggest one-month increase since 1963, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For someone hoping to book their first summer vacation in years, a flight to Europe for the cost of a month’s rent might seem pretty brutal. But don’t confuse the recent increase in airfares with a sign that you’ll never be able to afford the vacation of your dreams again, says Scott Keyes, founder of the email newsletter Scott’s Cheap Flights.

“Don’t read too much about expensive flights for this summer and fall into a sense of fatalism about airfares,” he says. “We are still living in the golden age of cheap airline tickets.”

“Cheap flights are not permanently lost, but they are gone for this summer”

Now that many pandemic-era travel restrictions have eased, demand for airfares has rebounded dramatically from lows in 2020 and 2021, driving prices up sharply. But would-be travelers looking at flight costs this summer may be getting the wrong idea, Keyes says.

“People are rightly shocked by the high cost of many fares for this summer, but their conclusion is not that summer flights are expensive. It’s not that last minute flights are expensive. isn’t that it’s all exacerbated by a spike in travel demand,” he says. “Instead, they think cheap flights are gone forever.”

Video by Helen Zhao

In reality, a return to normal means that buying a ticket a month or two to the hottest travel destinations during the hottest travel season comes back with a premium again. “If you zoom out a bit, fares after Labor Day are still incredibly affordable,” he says, citing recent missives from his newsletter on flights under $500 to Europe and flights from the West Coast. to Hawaii in the $300 range.

“Cheap flights aren’t lost forever,” he says, “but they’re gone for this summer, with rare exceptions.”

As for airfares that resemble what travelers were paying before the pandemic hit: “We should be so lucky,” says Keyes. “Never in history have you been able to reliably fly to Europe for less than $400 and South America for less than $300. These kinds of fares that became common before the pandemic. We don’t We can only hope that this will continue to be the case in the future.”

To find a cheap plane ticket, aim to book in the “Goldilocks” window

So if it’s too late to find a deal on summer travel, when should you aim to book the flight to your next fabulous destination? Results will vary depending on when and where you go, but in general, Keyes says, you’ll want to aim for what Keyes calls the Goldilocks window for airfare – “the pre-trip period when flights market are most likely to pop-up,” he says.

“For domestic flights, one to three months is most likely. For international flights, two to eight months,” he says. “If you’re traveling during a peak period, like mid-summer, add a few months to the window.”

Video by Helen Zhao

If you’re planning on traveling in the fall, “now is the time to book those trips,” says Keyes. “But you probably have a bit more leeway, because you don’t have the same level of competition and demand as in the summer.”

Even during a less competitive season, you’ll need to be vigilant and flexible to land the best deals, he says. “There is an extremely wide distribution. Even in this golden age, there are a ton of expensive flights and a ton of cheap flights. It’s about being patient when fares are expensive and remembering to book when fares are cheap.”

To expand your network, use online search engines to search for multiple departure dates, destinations and airports. And don’t be afraid to set alerts or repeatedly search for the same routes and destinations. The idea that airlines follow your searches and raise prices is a myth, says Keyes, who once put that notion to the test by researching a single trip from Denver to London hundreds of times, only to have the price. not moving.

“If anyone were to see rates change because of research, it would be us,” he says. “There’s just no truth or validity to that.”

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