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Americans have inflation on the brain with the cost of gas, groceries and other goods and services on the rise — including holiday essentials. But many are feeling the effects on their wallets in a myriad of other ways.
Over the last year, the consumer price index for airline tickets has shot up by about 25 percent — the largest jump since the Federal Reserve of St. Louis began tracking the index in 1989. In April alone, airfares spiked 18.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average cost of a “good deal” round-trip domestic flight for June 2022 was $398, according to Hopper. That’s over $100 more than the same month’s average in 2021.
Higher ticket prices, paired with added costs like travel insurance and checked baggage, have led some travelers to put their plans on hold. According to a recent Bankrate survey, about 79 percent of those planning to travel this holiday season say they are changing their plans due to inflation.
Here’s a look at the average cost of airfare for domestic flights out of the top 10 busiest airports in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Transportation.
|City and airport||Cost of airfare|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||$447.52|
Average cost of flying in the U.S.
A number of factors determine the cost of airfare in the U.S. Among them are distance, time of year you’ll be traveling, cost of fuel and time of purchase. While the average cost of flying in the U.S. fell during the pandemic in 2020, travelers booking domestic flights are now seeing steep airline ticket prices. This is because travel demand has steadily increased over the last two years and inflation has surged.
According to Hopper’s Price Tracker, the average cost of domestic flight travel is now closer to 2019 levels, as you can see below:
|Month||2019 airfare cost||2020 airfare cost||2021 airfare cost||2022 airfare cost|
5 most (and least) expensive origin cities for domestic airfare
The cost you pay to fly out of a certain airport varies greatly across the country. This discrepancy in ticket prices can be chalked up to a difference in how many airlines serve that particular airport and overall demand for flights. It will likely cost you more to fly into a smaller airport with less foot traffic than one of the nation’s major airports.
Here’s a look at the top five most expensive airports to fly out of versus the top five most affordable airports, based on how much you can expect to pay for airfare. All data is from the Bureau of Transportation.
Top 5 most expensive airports
|City/territory and airport||Average cost of airfare|
|Lanai, HI (LNY)||$1,929.00|
|Unalaska, AK (DUT)||$1,415.74|
|Pago Pago, American Samoa (PPG)||$1,040.31|
|St. Mary’s, AK (KSM)||$986.00|
Top 5 most affordable airports
|City and airport||Average cost of airfare|
|Santa Maria, CA (SMX)||$90.27|
|Ogden, UT (OGD)||$122.91|
|Provo, UT (PVU)||$130.23|
|Stockton, CA (SCK)||$133.13|
|Fort Collins/Loveland, CO (FNL)||$133.60|
When is the cheapest time to fly?
According to a 2022 study conducted by CheapAir, January and February are the least expensive months of the year to fly, compared to flights in December during the busy holiday season. For summer travel, planning for an August departure date could help you rake in more savings compared to the earlier summer months.
As for the cheapest day of the week to fly, the middle of the week — such as a Tuesday or Wednesday — tends to be more affordable. In fact, according to CheapAir, choosing a Tuesday or Wednesday flight could save you an average of $56 to $57 per airline ticket.
As for the weekend, Saturdays also tend to be one of the cheapest travel days, where as Sundays are usually the most expensive day to travel, according to Experian.
How to save on air travel
Even with prices on the rise, there are still a few strategies you can use to trim your overall costs when booking a flight.
- Book ahead. Timing is everything and can translate to major savings when purchasing airline tickets. According to the same study conducted by CheapAir, the best time to book a domestic flight is about 76 days before your travel date, on average.
- Set price alerts. Monitoring flight prices can be a job in and of itself. Automate where you can. Sites like Skyscanner, Hopper, Kayak and Google Flights let you set price alerts and will notify you when the airline ticket you’re hoping to purchase drops below a certain price point.
- Be flexible. Not only does the timing of your ticket purchase matter, but when you choose to fly is key to saving money as well. When you start planning your trip, see if there’s any flexibility in when you plan to venture off. If you can travel during the middle of the week or on a Saturday, you may save a considerable amount on airfare.
- Opt for a travel card. The top travel credit cards can help you earn valuable rewards to put toward flights, hotel stays and other travel-related expenses. If you already have a travel card, see if there are any rewards you can redeem to maximize your savings. You may also be able to cut down on other costs like travel insurance since many top travel cards come with numerous travel protections.
The bottom line
With a busy travel season ahead, it’s important to make your travel plans early and keep in mind that flexibility is key when scoring the lowest fare. Search around your area to see if flying out of a different airport could help you save. And if you have some wiggle room in your schedule, see if changing your travel dates could cut down your costs as well. Lastly, set yourself up for success by allowing for enough time to do your research, monitoring and comparing deals and looking for ways to redeem credit card points so that you can rake in extra savings.