As travel-related COVID-19 restrictions ease, the demand for travel is increasing – but so are the costs.
Some forecasters estimate that the number of travelers this summer will match or even exceed pre-pandemic numbers, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, airline tickets, gas prices and hotel rates are also higher than usual, according to the AP.
Airline fares in the U.S. are averaging more than $400 round trip this summer, which is 24% higher than the same time in 2019 and 45% higher than last year, the AP reported, citing travel-data firm Hopper.
Meanwhile, international airline fares are averaging around $868 round trip, which is up 10% from 2019, the AP reported.
"The time to have gotten cheap summer flights was probably three or four months ago," Scott Keyes, who runs the Scott’s Cheap Flights site, told the AP.
Currently, flights to Europe are the best bargain, Keyes told the AP. Flights to Europe are about 5% cheaper than before the pandemic.
Airlines are attributing the increase in airfare to the rise in jet fuel prices. There are other factors at play as well – including the fact that the number of flights hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to the AP.
"We have more travelers looking to book fewer seats, and each of those seats is going to be more expensive for airlines to fly this summer because of jet fuel," Hopper economist Hayley Berg told the AP.
Airlines are also struggling with staffing shortages, which have sometimes led to flight cancellations.
Despite hiring campaigns that started last year, the four largest airlines — American, Delta, United and Southwest — had about 36,000 fewer employees at the start of 2022 than before the pandemic, the AP reported.
To avoid canceling flights at the last minute this summer, airlines are cutting summer schedules to offer fewer flights, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, travelers who want to drive will also have to face higher than normal gas prices.
On Thursday, the national average for regular gasoline reached $4.60 a gallon, while in California, prices surpassed $6, according to the AP.
Even hotel rates are higher than normal, reaching about one-third up from last year, the AP reported. Those increased prices are due to staffing issues and an increased cost of supplies, according to the outlet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.