Top 5 reasons why air travel is so expensive now, and what to do to book cheap airline tickets

By Tetiana PavlichenkoMay 13, 2024 09:50 AMBlog
Top 5 reasons why air travel is so expensive now, and what to do to book cheap airline tickets
The price of airline tickets can be a barrier to traveling. Source: Image mdjaff/Freepik

When you're planning a trip, you get to the point of searching for flights and it can be a real shock. According to Haley Berg, an economist at ticket booking app Hopper, price increases in the last couple of years have been seen in almost every region of the world. For example, in 2023, the cost of a flight from the U.S. to Athens rose 45% to an average of $1,100 round-trip.

In search of a profitable flight, any passenger sooner or later wondered why airplane tickets are getting more and more expensive. How are these prices formed, what do they depend on and why do they fluctuate so much?

After the global pandemic and in the context of high inflation, airline tickets are rising in price again and again. Inflation drives up the cost of most basic commodities and impacts airline costs, from staff salaries to the price of snacks served on board. Added to these reasons are increased demand, staff shortages and higher oil prices.

To understand how much demand has increased, we can compare the data already available for February 2022 and 2023. While domestic flights showed an increase of just over 25%, international traffic increased by almost 90%! Let's understand the factors affecting the price of airline tickets to understand how to book the most profitable flight.

What does the cost of a flight depend on?

Top 5 reasons why air travel is so expensive now, and what to do to book cheap airline tickets
The cost of airfare varies periodically in one direction or another. Source: Image StockSnap/Pixabay

If you monitor the price of airfare, you will notice significant fluctuations in one direction or the other. The fact is that airlines today are guided by a complex system of real-time price adjustment. It is not easy to understand its algorithms, so it is better to try to understand the main 5 reasons why tickets are so expensive now. Although demand is the key, but by no means the only factor that makes prices skyrocket.

1. Travel demand

Traditionally, certain destinations increase in popularity at certain times of the year. Travelers take the opportunity to go on vacation during holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, or vacations, and as more people try to book tickets, airlines raise their prices.

Also, special events of regional and global importance, such as tournaments, conventions, festivals, and others that draw large crowds to a particular location, increase demand dramatically. That is why if you are going to visit, for example, Superbowl, airfares are so expensive during the event. Or you can also take the example of the price of tickets from England to Qatar during the World Cup in 2022, when the price increased by 50% (£893 in November 2022 and £471 in May 2023).

Even during peak periods, better flight deals can be seen on flights that leave very early or arrive very late. For such routes, it is possible to find more budget prices due to less demand. In addition, it should be understood that flights due to the tight schedule tend to be often delayed, so no one can guarantee timely arrival.

2. Pandemic

Due to the fact that most countries are out of pandemic bans and restrictions, the demand for air travel is higher than ever. There are fewer and fewer confusing travel requirements, passenger numbers are increasing, and airlines are raising prices based on this. This is one of the main reasons why airplane tickets are getting more expensive.

Also, flights are getting more and the shortage of manpower and boards is not going away, which also contributes to the price hike. New airplanes are not coming off the assembly line as quickly as they would like. Many airlines, according to Gary Leff, founder of the View from the Wing website, scrapped older model airplanes during the pandemic, hoping to replace them with more fuel-efficient ones. But many, such as Boeing and Airbus, experienced delays in production and subsequent aircraft deliveries.

3. Seasonal offerings

There is probably no need to explain that tickets are more expensive during Easter, Christmas and school and student vacations. If price is important to you, avoid traveling during these times altogether. Choose the off-season: as a rule, in September and October the weather in major cities remains pleasant for traveling, as well as in late spring in beach resorts, so it will be much easier to book cheap plane tickets. Plus, there won't be such an influx of tourists in the vacation spots that you'll have to share your experience with an annoying crowd.

4. Fuel prices

Jet fuel is the biggest expense for airlines, not counting labor. Crude oil and jet fuel prices reached record highs in 2022. Since then, there has been a downward trend, but they are still higher than they were in 2019, before the global pandemic. The increase in fuel prices has fallen on the shoulders, or rather wallets, of travelers.

5. Booking time

What can affect the cost of your flight is how far in advance you book your tickets and on what day of the week.

Plan your trip well in advance

Top 5 reasons why air travel is so expensive now, and what to do to book cheap airline tickets
Keep an eye on ticket prices so you don't miss out on a bargain price. Source: Image Tumisu/Pixabay

The first seats on an airplane are often sold at a lower price, even at a loss to the airline. As tickets fill up, they increase in price and the very last seats are the most expensive. Therefore, it is important to book your ticket as early as possible to avoid missing out on a bargain price.

The optimal period to reserve airline tickets is about 1-3 months before departure, and at the most affordable cost you can catch them between 21 and 100 days depending on the destination. For flights within Europe, the favorable window to purchase tickets is 71 to 80 days before departure, 30 days in North America, 60 days in Africa and 21 days in Australia and Oceania.

Weekdays and weekends

People go on air travel not only for leisure, but also during business trips. Airlines logically assume that business travelers look for flight tickets during the week. Since they are not as puzzled about finding a cheaper airline ticket, prices tend to be higher during this time. Therefore, the best option is to book tickets for the weekend, especially Sunday evening. This comes out of the fact that airline algorithms follow the assumption that most families and other travelers are busy with other things on the weekend, and bookings for business travel start on Monday.

Understanding price fluctuations

Obviously, the farther you travel, the more expensive the ticket will cost. And it is this factor that has been particularly affected by price increases. For example, summer flights from the U.S. to Europe in 2023 have increased in price by more than 30% compared to 2022.

The only thing that can somehow comfort travelers is that domestic flights have not been affected by this trend. For example, in the same United States, the price of domestic flights in 2023 even decreased slightly compared to 2022.

Should we expect a lower price?

The president of travel agency D. Tours Travel in Larchmont, N.Y., Diane Hechler says it's getting harder to find good deals on airfare and hotels, but people who intend to go somewhere end up paying the current fare. So airlines will continue to charge what the market can bear as long as they can get away with it.

Still, there are some features of price formation and changes that passengers can use to their advantage. Whether or not to wait for a lower price depends on how badly you need the flight. If you're not in the right circumstances to be flexible with your destination and departure date, but you've found the perfect flight, it's better to book a seat. There is no absolute certainty that the price will come down.

How to get bargain airfare tickets?

Top 5 reasons why air travel is so expensive now, and what to do to book cheap airline tickets
Use special services to track ticket prices. Source: Image

Ticket search and selection tools like Skyscanner and Google Flights do a wonderful job of keeping track of available options, monitoring costs, and booking at an affordable price. You can then choose a cheaper airport for departure, adjust travel dates or monitor prices. It is also preferable to use the principle of flexible destination selection. This works especially well in Europe: book a ticket to the cheapest airport closest to your destination, then change to a train or bus when you arrive to save money.

The times when tickets were booked at the last minute for the lowest price are a thing of the past. However, there are now more budget airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling whose flights are much cheaper than expensive national airlines.

Also, don't make the mistake of typing a certain fare into your search multiple times, as the airline's algorithms may assume that you are very interested in a certain flight and the price will go up. Use incognito mode in your browser to see the difference: this will also help you cut costs and book cheaper airline tickets.

What to consider when booking airline tickets?

  • desired travel dates;
  • book on weekends rather than weekdays;
  • flexibility in choosing your travel dates and destination is your biggest advantage in how to save money on airfare;
  • travel in the off-season.

What should you avoid when booking?

  • Avoid major sporting, cultural and other events only if they are not your destination.
  • Flying on the weekend can be more expensive. But this doesn't apply to return flights, so arriving on a Saturday won't cost you a higher price.
  • Don't use the cheapest fare option or double-check the details. Such fares may not include additional costs such as seat selection, checked baggage or carry-on luggage. You may end up paying more instead of the savings you want.
  • Don't limit your departure and arrival times. As a rule, far fewer passengers are willing to depart or arrive on flights at 5 a.m. or in the middle of the night.

Fare comparison by day of departure

Weekends are the most expensive time to depart, as most travelers try to spend less vacation time on travel at their expense. Therefore, try to schedule your departure on Tuesday or Wednesday if your schedule allows it.


At the heart of finding cheap tickets is the flexibility of not being dependent on specific dates. It is also worth monitoring fares more often, checking other airports and even other other cities, adjusting the days of the week the flight falls on and the flight time while planning your trip. Experiment with the above factors that affect airfare to make your trip more profitable.

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