Airlines Anticipating A Chaotic Summer, Raising Prices On Fares And Fees


If you’ve been looking for further justification for your FIY (fly-it-yourself) habit, recent reports on airline travel should give you plenty of backup. For example, National Public Radio reported on Monday that airlines canceled thousands of flights over the Memorial Day weekend and summer schedules are being cut back, despite surging demand for air travel.

The result for ticket buyers is not only potential chaos involving canceled flights, but higher fares and new fees. According to Hayley Berg, lead economist for booking agency Hopper, the average fare for a domestic round-trip ticket is now $394—50 percent higher than last summer and 25 percent higher than 2019, the last summer before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NPR report blames high fuel prices as central to the price increases, but also cites a “labor shortage,” with pilots at the tip of that spear (good news for up-and-coming airline captains). Kathleen Bangs, a spokesperson for flight-tracking specialist FlightAware, told NPR that airlines this year have canceled about 3 percent of all flights. “Anything over about 1 percent before Covid we thought was a pretty high number,” she said. “And it is a good thing that the airlines have scaled back some because there is such a surge in demand.”

While all GA pilots understand that unpredictable summer storms can wreak havoc on their flight plans, clearly, the airlines are far from immune to the domino effect of bad weather (among other things) on their dispatch reliability. Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group told NPR, “There’s absolutely no wiggle room, no flex room in the industry if and when something goes wrong. And it’s summertime. Something goes wrong on a regular basis.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. We must be reading different articles, because I don’t see where in the article NPR was “blaming pilots”. They did mention a pilot shortage as a contributing, but that’s hardly blaming the pilots themselves.

    The US President has very little to do with global fuel prices, but if you want to compare fuel prices during the last 3 administrations, the national average price tripled from around 1.60/gal in 2000 to around 3.10/gal in 2008 at the end of Bush Jr’s administration. Shortly after Obama took office in 2008, fuel prices spiked to $4.10/gal (notably related to the housing market crash of around the same time), but then shortly dropped to $1.75/gal, and finished around $2.10/gal at the end of his term in 2016. And the previous president was only in office for 4 years, but prices remained fairly stable during most of that 4 year period (as they did during the last 4 years of Obama’s 2nd administration, before prices dropped by about 50%). All of these prices are unadjusted for inflation.

    • @GaryB At least someone can post a sensible thought in here. Is it me or are the comments mostly full of trolls now?

      • Yup! This commentary section seems to have become a cellar for ignorant rants based on god-knows-what, authored by persons without insight into their own emotions or feelings that motivates their hyper critical vitriol. It’s just too easy to blame the who or whatever, rather than engage in the hard work of centering. To all of you who don’t know what it feels like to “center”, multiply 478 by 29 in your head, and notice your emotions. That’s what it feels like when your “rational” brain is working. When you’re spewing accusatory comments, that is your emotional brain working. And while those emotional outbursts may feel good for the moment, they are typically akin to a child having a tantrum! Being an adult takes work.

        • “Being an adult takes work”

          Well said. It seems many on here find it more important to display their keyboard Warrior political ideology than to focus on aviation. It shouldn’t be difficult to have an honest conversation about the challenges that face aviation today. And yet, I guess this is still the internet, and one line zingers seem to provoke emotional arguments and that’s the end of any real conversation.


  2. The last sentence in this article says it all. Even though the airlines know this they continue to operate like weather, equipment, and personnel are perfect and when something goes wrong/against this attitude airline management just comes up with excuses. Top it off with some of the traffic management programs restricting amount of traffic to certain areas ( Florida) due to what the FAA says are lack of controllers (what happened to ADS-b?) and you have the making of a real mess. Of course then you have airline passengers who played the “market” airline fare game by purchasing “cheap” tickets months ahead of the departure time who then get POed because of last minute changes or cancellations.