Summer is a popular time of the year to make travel plans, and with the grounding of Boeing 737 Max planes, many may wonder how the hundreds of flight cancellations could impact ticket prices.
According to experts, it might actually be a good time to finally book that summer vacation with the family.
While flight prices peak in the high-demand summer months, prices for summer travel are lower than in 2018 and 2017, according to Hayley Berg, economist at airfare forecasting app Hopper.
Berg said key drivers of these lower prices are jet fuel prices relative to last year, an increase in competition and the entry and expansion of low-cost carriers in the domestic and international market.
“In May, consumers can expect to see higher prices than April, since we’re entering the peak summer season, but lower prices than they’ve paid in previous years,” Berg said. “In fact, flight prices are expected to be down -7 percent compared to the same time two years ago.”
Hopper is forecasting that prices will continue to rise through June, then begin to fall from July through October.
Earlier this year, airlines and regulators worldwide grounded the Boeing 737 Max jets after deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Widespread grounding of planes has left some to wonder if there will be a “Boeing effect” on travel prices during the peak season of travel.
The good news for travelers is that the groundings were not expected to have a “meaningful impact” on summer pricing, Berg said.
“Given the multitude of factors that go into determining the cost of airfare, and considering that the 737 Max seats represented only a small percentage of overall capacity (<0.5% of daily domestic departures), the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max is not likely to have a meaningful impact on prices this summer,” Berg said, who added that the current trends in lower summer travel prices will continue to be driven by larger economic forces, such as oil prices and competitive pressures.
In very specific cases, such as Southwest Airlines suspending service from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, prices may go up due to decreased overall capacity and lack of competition on certain routes, Berg said.
Although the grounding of planes has impacted specific carrier capacity, Berg added that overall domestic capacity “remains higher in May 2019 than in the previous year.”
DESTINATIONS TO WATCH
If you're planning a European vacation, average prices for round-trip tickets in the spring and summer months are the lowest that they have been in the last three years. According to Hopper's data science team, prices were averaging $637 round-trip this spring, which is down 15 percent from March 2018.
International travel destinations to watch for a price drop during the month of May include Porto, Portugal; Cancun, Mexico; Vieux Fort, Sant Lucia; Phuket Town, Thailand; Havana, Cuba; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Vancouver, Canada and Milan, Italy, according to Hopper.
Flight prices to several United States locations were also expected to drop in May, including Fort Lauderdale, Austin, Minneapolis, Charleston, New York City, Newark, Atlanta, Kansas City and Indianapolis.
OTHER WAYS TO SAVE ON AIRFARE
The CheapAir.com 2019 Annual Airfare Study identified the “prime booking zones,” or the number of days in advance, that will get you the lowest fares. The study analyzed 917 million airfares in more than 8,000 markets.
About four months to three weeks out from a trip was identified as the “prime booking window” where the lowest airfares tend to pop up.
The study found that about 10 months to 6.5 months in advance of the travel dates will cost about $50 more per ticket, on average. Booking airfare about 6.5 to 4 months out from a trip will likely cost about $20 more than flights purchased in the prime booking window.
For those who like to push their luck and buy tickets three to two weeks away from a planned trip, they could find cheap tickets, the study found. Although, the quantity and quality of seats is more limited the closer to the travel date.
Lastly, the study found that air travelers booking one to two weeks in advance will “almost always pay more” than prime booking window buyers, but close to an average of $135 less than people who wait until the very last minute to buy.
The study also found that the day of the week you purchase a flight has a “negligible effect” on flight cost. Whether you book airfare on Tuesday or Sunday, the average low fare only varies by $1.
On the contrary, there are less expensive and more expensive days to actually board the plane.
Tuesday was found to be the cheapest day of the week to fly at nearly $85 cheaper on average than Sunday, identified as the most expensive day of the week to travel. Wednesday was also found to be a great day for air travel, while Friday was found to be the second most expensive day of the week.
Weekends were found to be generally more expensive and midweek flights saved travelers some cash.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.