Here's Why Flights Keep Getting More And More Expensive

If you've been daydreaming about jetting off to amazing destinations only to have airfare prices slap you back to reality, it's not you — it's the economy. According to CNBC, airline tickets have been climbing so fast that they've surpassed inflation, shooting up by a staggering 25%. To illustrate, an average domestic flight out of Los Angeles at the end of 2023 was $416.69, per the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Just five years prior, in 2018, tickets out of LAX were averaging $370.10.


It's not rocket science to figure out why, really. Because of the pandemic, many are still trying to make up for lost time. And if you're banking on airfare prices stabilizing anytime soon, it may not happen. Demand for travel is still sky-high, with everyone itching to head to once-in-a-lifetime vacation destinations or explore some hidden gems. The more people want to fly, the higher prices will be — basic supply and demand. Sure, you might find a few price dips, but generally, you can kiss those pre-pandemic fares goodbye. And if you're eyeing a vacation over peak seasons, especially the summer, good luck finding a fare that won't break the bank. 

"Airfare in the middle of July is going to be quite more expensive versus traveling in September and October, regardless if you're traveling internationally or domestically," travel expert Katy Nastro told The Washington Post. "That's because kids are back in school. Summer might be the only time people can take an extended vacation."


Fuel prices are contributing to the rising costs

Just like you wince every time you pump gas because of the outrageous prices, airlines feel the sting, too. Fuel accounts for a third of their operating costs, so when fuel prices soar, guess who's footing the bill? That's right, us travelers. 


"One of the main reasons directly linked to the increased airfare fees is, of course, the fuel price that has gone up by 20%-35%," Peter Vazan, a travel industry insider and the executive vice president of industry relations at a travel agency, explained to GoBankingRates. Plus, fluctuating exchange rates aren't doing us any favors. "Jet fuel is purchased in dollars, and a strong dollar creates a competitive disadvantage for airlines located outside the dollar zone... So even if the oil price falls, the exchange rates erase part of this fall."

As much as airlines would love to avoid passing these costs onto us, it's simply not sustainable. They already operate on razor-thin margins, and absorbing the extra fuel costs would be a financial disaster. "The airlines will continue to do everything they can to keep costs in control as much as possible for the benefit of consumers," Willie Walsh, the director-general of the International Air Transport Association, shared at the group's 2024 annual meeting (via AP News). "But I think it's unrealistic to expect that airlines can continue to absorb all of the costs... It's not something we like to do, but it's something we have to do."


There are still ways to significantly save on airfare

But just because airfare can be prohibitively expensive doesn't mean you should give up on your travel dreams. You're still entitled to head to wherever your heart desires. Fortunately, according to experts, there are still options for scoring more wallet-friendly airfare, and no, it doesn't include searching for cheaper flights via incognito mode. For starters, you could stick with a budget airline and take advantage of their low prices. You might have to sacrifice a few luxuries and amenities, but it's the best way to stretch your travel dollars. You can also opt to travel over the off-seasons and book a flight in the middle of the week when there are likely fewer travelers.


You also want to take advantage of airline-branded credit cards so you can enjoy perks like free checked bags to avoid the never-ending airline baggage fees (it still depends on the card, of course) and rack up points and exchange them for free flights. 

"I highly recommend to consumers, if you fly the same airline and check bags once a year, getting that airline co-branded [credit] card could save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars," Brian Kelly, founder of travel site The Points Guy shared in a "Good Morning America" interview. "Do not pay the hundreds in bag fees when a credit card that's $95 can save you money for you and all your companions."