What Will Flight Prices Look Like in 2022?

What Will Flight Prices Look Like in 2022?

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The holidays are behind us, and it’s time to start planning your travel for 2022. But what will flight prices do this year?

Throughout much of the pandemic, airlines simply threw out their rulebooks for how they priced flights. 2020 fares sank to unthinkable lows: Think sub-$50 domestic flights on major carriers, $200 roundtrip flights to Europe, and even a $63 flight to Chile and back. 2021 also saw its own share of mind-blowing deals. Basic economy fares vanished, and even the costly fares when booking-last minute all but disappeared.

However, after 20+ months of pandemic bargains on airfare, can travelers expect flight prices to rise this year? Will airlines hike prices as travelers continue to return to the skies and the cost of fuel rises?

Yes and no. Our team of flight deal experts spends all day, every day searching for the lowest airfares around the world for our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers. And while we may see average airfare creep up across the board in the coming months, that’s not what truly matters. The cheap flight deals are still out there – and they aren’t going anywhere.

We’re still finding rock-bottom fares every day for travel deep into 2022. We put together a list of some of our favorites so far, and we find more every day for our subscribers.

So while higher fuel costs and growing travel demand could push average prices higher, there are other factors that will keep cheap flight deals in our futures.

The rules we came to understand about flight prices were upended during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a familiar foe is threatening to raise airfare now that the airline industry recovery is well underway.

During their quarterly earnings calls last fall, airline executives offered rosy projections of a post-COVID recovery of the airline industry. We found four similar reasons for optimism in some key travel metrics, too.  In those same earnings calls, however, executives pointed to the price of crude oil as a reason for caution, seemingly hinting at an uptick in airfares.

Plus, a whole new market of foreign travelers have their sights set on the United States after our borders opened to vaccinated individuals in December, which could lead to increased demand across the Atlantic going forward.

The bottom line: Unbelievably cheap flights are still out there.


Supply and Demand

After it nearly evaporated in 2020, demand for travel is back and isn’t going anywhere.

As with all things, one of the biggest factors behind flight prices is the simple law of supply and demand. Demand disappeared as the pandemic first struck last year, forcing airlines to cut the supply of flights until it returned. Airlines dropped routes and cut frequencies, running just 20% of their normal operations – or less.

With next to no appetite for travel, they slashed fares to unthinkable lows to generate whatever sales they could.




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Summer and fall travel surged, but things aren’t quite back to normal yet. It will still take a while travel to return to its pre-pandemic levels, especially as governments continue to monitor COVID-19 variants. That’s especially true of business travel, which has been so critical for airlines to churn out record profits … and it may never fully return.

Critically, airlines still have some planes in storage that they can bring back as we continue on the path back to normal. Despite some growing pains over the holidays, they should be able to continually ramp back up the supply of flights as travel continues to recover in 2022.

But one thing was made clear this summer: Airfare could be on the way up. Fares that were once under $100 (or less) are on the rise as Americans who were stuck at home for the last year get back out into the world.

Beyond that? There’s no clear trend line. Cheap fares are still prevalent for this winter, and even out into summer and fall of 2022 – but it depends on where you’re going.

So despite all the talk about flight prices skyrocketing, we’re still finding some of the cheapest flights for future travel in some cases, cheaper than anything we’d seen throughout the worst of the pandemic.


Cheap flights to Hawaii


Premium subscribers who booked this one got in on a rare deal! We couldn’t believe our eyes when these Delta nonstops to Hawaii as well as the Hawaiian Airlines connections to the other islands went on sale.

Read up on the return of cheap flights to Europe – and how you can snag fares to Madrid, Paris, Zurich and beyond under $300!

Driving those crazy-low fares was a lack of demand. While Americans have been welcomed back to Europe since the early summer 2021, foreign travelers were still not allowed to enter the United States for nearly 20 months, stifling sales and leaving some planes half-full flying across the Atlantic.

That changed in November, a joyous day in the travel world as planes full of vaccinated visitors landed on U.S. soil for the first time when travel restrictions finally fell.

This uptick in demand could push prices upward. But airlines are resuming more and more transatlantic routes that were paused during the pandemic, too. That means there will eventually be more seats to help meet that increase in demand.

In short: Cheap flight deals aren’t going anywhere. When the pandemic first upended travel, we saw airlines slash fares to get more travelers on planes. Now, demand is bouncing back – but capacity on many major airlines is returning to normal, too.

That means we think you can count on some big sales for the foreseeable future, even if there is an overall uptick in average fares.  


Competition Will Drive Flight Prices

If supply and demand is the principle behind airfare, competition between airlines is the gamechanger.

The airline industry is cutthroat. Every year, we see new players enter and exit the game. Even in the midst of the worst year for the airline industry, we saw not one, not two, but three new U.S. carriers start up in 2021: Avelo Airlines, Breeze Airways, and Aha!

And in the meantime, airlines are constantly targeting their competitors, offering dirt-cheap prices to undercut each other in hopes of winning more customers. The connection between competition and price is undeniable. And we’ve seen that competition take off lately. See our guide to “fare wars” and how they always mean savings for you, the traveler.

Lately, Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers may have been blessed with some of the cheapest fares to Europe we’ve ever seen. That’s because the airlines are competing to fill their seats heading across the Atlantic.

After airlines began discounting transatlantic fares to $400 or less this summer. During that flurry, we found fares to Madrid (MAD) from nearly every U.S. airport, flying American Airlines for under $300 roundtrip.


Chicago to Madrid flight


And it’s not just Europe. Earlier this year, we saw Alaska Airlines and Delta battle it out for fares to Anchorage and Fairbanks. The two went back and forth for months with dirt-cheap fares and even a Delta SkyMiles flash sale with roundtrip flights to Alaska from just 5,000 SkyMiles.


flight prices after covid-19


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Critically, the major carriers like Delta, American, and United aren’t just fighting with each other anymore. With business travel out and leisure travel roaring, even the biggest airlines have to compete with low-cost budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Sun Country. That’s a recipe for some low fares for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news – especially when it comes to international travel. Many of the budget airlines flying to Europe have disappeared.

WOW Air came out of the gates hot with some of the lowest pricing to fly between the U.S. and Iceland, with flights under $50 each way. Norwegian Air and TAP Air Portugal have made their name with low fares across the Atlantic but continue to struggle. And the list goes on.

WOW Air collapsed a year ago. Primera Air went kaput in 2018. And now, Norwegian has stopped flying between the U.S. and Europe altogether.

These budget carriers drove flight prices to Europe down to record lows in recent years – as low as $300 round-trip (or even less.) Sure, you can snag a cheap flight on one of these barebones airlines. But they’ve also forced major airlines like Delta, American, United, and their international partners to compete on price, too. And that’s a win for consumers. Without that competition from the likes of Norwegian, the pressure on those bigger carriers is gone.

Fortunately, there’s reason for optimism: Those budget carriers are making a comeback … under a different name. Two officials from WOW started PLAY airlines, with plans to start flights to the U.S. next summer. Norse Atlantic Airways – founded by Norwegian’s creator – has similar plans.

For now, we’re still finding dirt-cheap fares to Europe. But the future of cheap flights hinges on that competition staying strong.


premium deal europe


Jet Fuel Prices

The cost of oil sunk to record lows during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s huge for airlines: Fuel costs are a huge expense. The lower fuel prices go, the more freedom they have to offer incredibly low airfare like this one to Iceland.


flight prices after covid 19


Jet fuel is one of the biggest costs for each and every airline. It’s another huge factor in the price of travel. And while it dropped like a rock in 2020, it surged in 2021 – and airline executives are taking notice.


Crude oil


Crude oil prices have steadily climbed over the last year. Airline CEOs have not been shy about pointing to these numbers as the companies enter the holiday travel season.

At the end of October, U.S. jet fuel was $2.32 a gallon – up more than 115% from a year ago, according to S&P Global Platts data analyzed by CNBC.

“Higher jet fuel prices lead to higher ticket prices,” United CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC’s Squawk on the Street. “Ultimately, we’ll pass that through.”

United is not on an island here. Delta also projected that crude oil prices could stunt the airline’s recovery slightly, and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker primed customers for some crude oil-related fare increases during American’s earnings call, too.

“Oil is our second largest expense,” Parker said, according to Business Insider. “So when it increases, the cost of air travel increases.”


Bottom Line

Predicting airfare is more art than science. It can be unpredictable, given the puzzling sales we see from airlines day after day, year after year. Cash grabs, mistake fares, flash sales, and fare wars can spring up at any moment.

There are still bargains to be had now for future travel. Despite some increases in flight prices and warning signs ahead, we’re still bullish on the future of cheap flights as we all return to the skies in 2022.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

5 Responses

    • These are unprecedented times and I look forward to the unprecedented silver linings and opportunities that this environment will bring. YOLO! Thanks for the very informative articles and insights, guys! I’m a huge fan and have shared your site with many folks.

  • Been a travel agent for 50 years, and I for one, will not be boarding a plane/ship/train/bus
    for a very long time. It was my business, til the bookings stopped in February 24th.
    Low fares might help spur younger people, but older or hopefully, smarter people will want everyone on an airplane/ship/bus/train to wear a mask while underway. That’s simply not going to happen. Also, for the foreseeable future, the middle seat on airplanes should be empty–don’t know what that means for smaller carriers. NO MORE SELF SERVICE BUFFETS ANYWHERE/ANYPLACE/ANYTIME–no cruise ship, no restaurant, no wedding, no hotel, no conference should allow people to get their own food. No more sharing those ubiquitous serving utensils.
    Watching people breeze by the Purell dispensers on the last two cruises we took last year—
    even with an attendant standing there–arguing they had just washed their hands—
    will be enough to keep me and my clients from sailing. This is the saddest time ever to
    be a travel agent.

  • You make some valid points! As travel slowly rebounds, one way airlines will be able to manage and control the supply is by blocking off the middle seat. As demand for air travel goes back up, continuing to limit the supply of seats (e.g. blocking off the middle seat) means they will be able to charge more for aisle and middle seats until demand is back to normal levels. I believe the unheard of flight deals we are all currently seeing are a shorter term trend to get some people back in the air. Will be interesting to see what happens!

  • Hey there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I抣l definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this website.

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