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Top 5 Factors that Influence Ticket Prices - Why Flights are so Expensive Right Now

Top 5 Factors that Influence Ticket Prices - Why Flights are so Expensive Right Now

Amy Lancelotte
Written By Amy Lancelotte
8 minutes read
Last Updated: November 06, 2023

You have to pay for everything - everyone knows that. However, in the case of airline tickets, every traveller asks the question, “Why are flights so expensive?” at one time or another. How are these prices set, and why do they fluctuate so much?

Realizing that the world is only just recovering from the global pandemic and that inflation in 2023 is through the roof, it starts to make sense that flights are becoming more and more expensive. Add that to staffing shortages, increased demand, and high oil prices, and it starts to make sense.

But exactly how much has demand increased? Comparing February 2022 to February 2023, the change is exponential. Domestic flights showed the smallest rise of 25.2%, and if you’re wondering why international flights are so expensive, you’re not alone. During the same time period, international traffic worldwide rose 89.7%! Any airline would have a hard time keeping up.

Read on to learn the factors that influence ticket prices and how you can book the cheapest flight so that you don’t have to give up on seeing the world.

What do airline ticket prices depend on?

Airlines use a complex system to manage their prices in real-time. Rather than trying to understand the intricate algorithms at work within the system, it’s easier to understand the top reasons flights are so expensive right now. Demand is key, but it’s not the only thing that affects the price of the flight for your dream vacation. Here are the top factors that influence ticket prices:

1. Travel Demand

Crowded Departure Lounge At Gdansk Airport

Lots of things can increase travel demand to specific destinations at certain times of the year. Holidays like Spring Break, Easter, and Christmas afford travellers time off work, and with more people looking to book flights, airlines raise prices. 

Special events like sporting tournaments, festivals, conventions, and basically any large gathering of people in one place make demand skyrocket. That’s why your flight to the Superbowl is so expensive. As an example, for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, flights from England were up to 50% higher (£893 in November 2022 vs £471 in May 2023).

There is less demand for flights that leave super early or land super late, so better deals can often be found on these. Plus, with flights scheduled so tightly, flights often encounter a delay, so you can’t always count on arriving on time, anyway.

If you do experience a flight delay, we can help you check your eligibility to get compensation of up to €600.Check Your Flight

2. The Pandemic

look via airport window on the plane of Lufthansa, the major carrier of Europe

To put it simply, the demand for travel is now as high as ever. The world is emerging from travel bans and convoluted travel requirements and is now ready to fly again. Airlines know this and raise prices. And because they now struggle with staffing shortages and not enough planes, it’s easy to see why flights are so expensive right now.

3. Seasonal Travel

Most people know it’s expensive to travel at Christmas, Easter, and basically any time the kids are out of school. Avoid these times and travel in the off-season instead. Head to beach destinations in the late spring and major cities in September or October, when the weather is generally still pleasant but the demand for flights has decreased.

4. Fuel Prices

Jet fuel and crude oil prices hit an all-time high in August of 2022 and are now, luckily, trending downward. Unfortunately, they are still higher than in 2019, so that increase in fuel cost is passed along to the traveller.

5. Time of Booking

one of the business travellers looking outside of airport window

Both the day of the week and how far in advance you book affect the price of your domestic or international flight.

Plan Ahead

Generally speaking, the first seats on each flight are typically sold at a low price, often at a loss. The ticket prices steadily increase as the plane fills up, with the highest prices for the last seats. As a result, to avoid asking that age-old question of why your flight tickets are so expensive, book in advance. 

One to three months ahead of time is recommended, and you’ll see the best prices anywhere from 21 to 100 days before the departure day, depending on your destination.

Destination

Booking Window Before Departure Day

Europe

71-80 days

North America

30 days

Africa

60 days

Australia & Oceania

21 days

Weekdays vs. Weekends

Since people book flights for both business and leisure, during the week, airlines assume that more business travellers will be looking for flights. Since they aren’t as concerned about cost, prices tend to be higher. So, your best bet to book cheap flight tickets is on the weekend. Sunday evenings are optimal.

Weekends are better because the airline’s algorithms operate on the assumption that most families and other leisure travellers are doing other things at this time, and business travel bookings can always wait until Monday.

Understanding Fluctuating Prices

It’s fairly obvious that the further you go, the higher the price of your ticket. And that’s where the price fluctuations have hit the hardest. Based on travel from the US, summer flights to Europe in 2023 are over 30% higher than they were in 2022. So, you’re not alone when you wonder why international flights are so expensive right now.

The one bright spot is that this high increase over last year doesn’t seem to be affecting domestic flights. In the US, domestic flight ticket prices are down slightly as compared to 2022.

!! Although it fluctuates based on your origin, destination, and the time of year, here are some of the price ranges US air passengers can expect to see when travelling domestically and abroad in 2023:

Destination from the US

Average Flight Cost

Lower-48 States

$100 - $300

Hawaii & Alaska

$200 - $500

Canada

$200 - $300

Caribbean

$200 - $400

Central America & Mexico

$200 - $400

South America

$400 - $700

Middle East

$800 - $1200

Africa

$1000 - $1500

Asia

$800 - $1200

Australia & Oceania

$1000 - $1500

Should You Wait for a Price Drop?

That depends. How badly do you need the flight? If you aren’t flexible on dates or destinations and you find the perfect flight for you, booking is recommended. Price drops are never guaranteed.

Search within the recommended window of 21 to 100 days for your destination, and if it’s right, go for it.

How to Get the Best Flight Deals

Tools like Google Flights and Skyscanner are great for showing you every available option and eventuality and the associated costs. Then, you can act accordingly by flying from a cheaper airport, adjusting your travel dates, or checking back later if the prices are still unaffordable. Additionally, consider being flexible with your destination. Especially in Europe, fly to a cheaper nearby airport and hop on a bus or a train to keep costs down.

Gone are the days of booking last-minute flights for a steal, but all is not lost. Now, with budget airlines like Ryanair, easyJet, and Vueling, you don’t always have to go with expensive national airlines like British Airways.

Sometimes, when an airline knows you’ve looked up a certain fare multiple times, it increases the prices, assuming that you really need this flight. To avoid this, use your browser’s incognito mode to see if there is any difference. It’s a quick step but could save money.

Things to Consider When Booking a Flight

checking airline tickets in computer and listing ticket prices in the diary

  • How far out are your desired travel dates? Use our chart to know exactly when to book.
  • Book on the weekend instead of a weekday.
  • Be flexible on your travel dates if you can.
  • Be flexible about your destination.
  • Travel during the off-season.

And Things to Avoid

  • If you’re not attending the event, avoid travelling during special events, festivals, etc. 
  • Weekend departure dates can be more expensive, so avoid those days. But the same doesn’t seem to apply to your return flight, so returning on a Saturday is unlikely to cost you more.
  • Don’t automatically select the cheapest fare. Check the details, as it may not include things like seat selection and carry-on or checked luggage. It could actually end up being more expensive.
  • Don’t be set on a flight time. Generally, 5 am flights and the redeye are the cheapest because no one wants to get up that early or leave so late. 

Comparison: Average Fare Based on Departure Day

Comparison: Average Fare Based on Departure Day

Source: cheapair.com

Try to plan your flight departure for a Tuesday or Wednesday. Weekends are the most expensive days to fly, and this is because travelling on these days doesn’t burn as many vacation days. If you have time off to spare or don’t work a conventional work week, use this to your advantage.

Comparison and Forecast: Average Ticket Price

Comparison and Forecast: Average Ticket Price

Source: businesstravelnewseurope.com

As you can see, average ticket prices are definitely higher than 2018 and 2019 levels, but the increase percentages are much smaller than from 2021 to 2022. 2023 prices are up 8.4% over 2022, and in 2024, the increase is forecasted to be less than 2%.

Conclusion

The bottom line with finding the cheapest flights is to be flexible. Check fares often, fly to a different airport (or even a different city), and adjust the days of the week you fly and the time of your flight. Play around with options to combat the fact that flight ticket prices are so high currently.

With these tips and AirAdvisor by your side, if you encounter a disruption, we can help you with flight delay compensation, as well as flight cancellation compensation and refunds, so you’re sure to have a trip to remember. When you have a great vacation, wondering why flights are so expensive doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much!

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Realist 26.07.2023

Bullshit article.. its airline industry who has politicians and you in their pocket

Brian Lenk 24.05.2023

your price information for flights is way, way off. $200-300 to the Caribbean only if you are lucky. Try $1200 on some days

BT 16.11.2021

This still did not answer my question. Yes I understand that airline industry lost revenue during COVID just like hotel and restaurant businesses or any other business. They are not raising their menu prices exorbitantly like the airline industry to make up the loss. To attract more travelers the airline industry should keep the same prices or even lower so that many more people will travel as so many people are just waiting to travel and get out. They will make money in no time. They should increase the numbers of flights so every flight will go at full capacity. We are trying to travel internationally to attend a wedding and it is costing us an arm and a leg. It is just ridiculous. It is costing 8k for just two people. The airline industry is just getting too greedy. It makes us sad that our decision to go or not is being determined by the greedy and unscrupulous industry. Very upset at the current situation.

DARLA WATKINS 07.11.2021

This still doesn't explain why flights are higher than a week at a resort. More affordable flights have the longest layovers (10-32 hours) while shorter flights with layovers (7 or 8 hours) are over $1200k to go to the Caribbean. These flights are insane especially when you have been searching and waiting for an affordable price for more than 4 months. We all were effected by the pandemic so why we are getting the brunt of it again?

Fay 19.09.2021

Also airline need to give folks a discount when rake vacation overseas. They need to put it in their thoughts and be willing to work with us, also they must book with any travel agency when take a vacation to get a good deal on price and must have 2 weeks vacation time .

Fay 19.09.2021

This don't make no sense at all. Many people fly so can they low price down. I don't see why someone have to buy ticket for thousands dollars. Please tell those airline to stop charge too much plus CEO need to reduce their salary and be happy they get paid .

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