Airfare higher, but holiday season will still be busy, expert says

Airfare prices have risen at area airports over the last year, federal data shows, but an aviation expert still expects air travel to be busy this holiday season.

Cincinnati’s average airfare in the second quarter of 2022 was $383 and Columbus’ was $403. They saw increases from the second quarter of 2021, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The average ticket price in Dayton was $492, $100 more than it was in the second quarter of 2021 even with inflation adjusted, data shows.

The loss of low-cost carrier seats is a major reason for the increase in prices in Dayton, aviation expert Jay Ratliff said.

Dayton International Airport offers commercial service on four airlines — Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — and in a typical year transports about 1 million passengers. In 2021, it ranked at just 130th on a list of the country’s busiest airports, according to Stratos Jet Charters.

“Keeping the low-cost carriers is really a key,” Ratliff said. “It’s difficult as other carriers will raise their prices to match market conditions.”

He said increased fuel prices also likely played a role, but fuel cost is likely playing an even bigger role now and will continue to in the future.

Despite the prices going up, the Transportation Security Administration reported this week that nationwide, they screened more people in a single day on Sunday than they have on any day since February 2020.

“We had more people flying that day, about 2.5 million, and that’s the highest number since the pandemic hit and everything went crazy,” Ratliff said. “That tells us people are starting to return to travel in very strong numbers.”

Those planning to travel over the holidays but haven’t brought their tickets are already late, Ratliff said, and any great deals are gone. He said there still might be some decent rates available, but it is going to require the traveler to be flexible.

“What’s going to happen is if you’re talking about Thanksgiving, there are still some deals left the morning of Thanksgiving and coming back on Saturday,” Ratliff said. “Other than that, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the second busiest travel day of the year. The first of course is the Sunday after Thanksgiving.”

And he said for Christmas, it might be a good idea to not only check for tickets to the airport you want to go to, but also to airports in the surrounding area.

“It can be done but if you walked into this year thinking you were going to fly for close to what you flew for last year’s price or the year before, you should be sitting down when you check the fares because it’s going to blow you away,” Ratliff said.

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