Holiday flight prices set to be highest in years

Expect a sticker clash this holiday season when it comes to flight prices.

According to travel booking app Hopper, prices for flights over Thanksgiving and Christmas are expected to hit their highest level in the past five years.

For Thanksgiving, that means domestic round-trip airfare will average $350, up 22% from 2019. At Christmas, domestic flights are expected to cost $463 on average, up 31% compared to pre-pandemic prices. For international flights, trips during Thanksgiving rose 25% to $795 and 26% to $1,300 over Christmas compared to 2019.

Blame many of the same forces that made summer travel so expensive this year.

When to book vacation flights

“Fundamentally, the biggest driver of why we’re seeing such high prices is pent-up demand from people who haven’t traveled in the past few years,” said Andrew Heritage, an economist at Hopper.

Heritage said jet fuel prices – lower than their peak this summer, but still higher than last year – are also contributing to the cost of plane tickets. Airline capacity also remains lower than it was before the pandemic, another factor in ticket prices.

Hotel rooms are also more expensive than a year ago, the company said. Expect to shell out an average of $189 per night for Thanksgiving, up from $167 in 2021. For Christmas stays, the average rate is $218 per night, up 32% from last year.

On a bright note for travellers, car rental prices have come down significantly from their peaks of last year and even this summer. Hopper says the national average for rental cars is $60 a day during Thanksgiving and $53 a day during Christmas time.

How do you actually get those $49 flights? There is always a catch in airline sales.

Heritage said car rental companies have “been able to successfully rebuild their fleets so car rental prices are somewhat in line with what we have seen normally”.

To slightly soften the budget blow, Hopper recommends booking tickets to depart on the Monday before Thanksgiving or the holiday itself and return on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week. Going on Christmas vacation on the Monday or Tuesday before December 25 and returning on the Tuesday or Wednesday after the vacation will offer savings. If it’s possible to return on Jan. 3, Hopper said that could mean a savings of 20%.

Now is the time to actively track prices, the company said, and book by the week of October 10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel.

“We expect popular routes to sell out and people to book early,” Heritage said. He said that once people book a large number of these flights, “prices will start to rise”.

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