Inflation no longer seems to be a major hurdle for Americans eager to travel, but flight delays and disruptions that plagued airlines last summer could once again make Fourth of July travel difficult for millions of people.
More than 50 million Americans are planning to travel at least 50 miles from home over the Fourth of July weekend, a record for the holiday, according to travel organization AAA. That projection surpasses the record of 49 million travelers set in 2019.
“What this tells us is that despite inventory being limited and some prices 50% higher, consumers are not cutting back on travel this summer,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel.
“Many of them heeded our advice and booked early, another sign of strong travel demand.”
Still, a recent survey by travel news site The Vacationer found that inflation was indeed a major concern for U.S. travelers. Almost 64% of respondents said surging prices were affecting their travel plans, with more than half of those travelers noting that everyday items have continued to become more expensive.
Respondents aged 18-29 were the most likely age group to say inflation would impact their Fourth of July travel plans — 69% of them stated rising prices would affect travel during the holiday weekend.
“We can infer that while inflation will not prevent people from traveling altogether, it will likely force them to make cuts elsewhere,” said Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer and a Rowan College of South Jersey professor who has conducted studies and surveys on travel.
“For example, we may see shorter-duration trips, more carpooling, travel closer to home, more cooking during vacation, etc.”
But one area that travelers don’t seem to be cutting back from is flying. As the average price for round-trip flights in the U.S. around this Fourth of July is roughly 27% cheaper than last year, Americans are expected to fly in much greater numbers for the holiday than in 2022.
The TSA estimates 17.7 million travelers will fly over the Fourth of July weekend while it anticipates nearly 2.82 million screenings on June 30. That screening figure would surpass the single-day travel record the agency set on June 16 of this year.
Major U.S. airlines are also among those bullish on massive passenger numbers for the holiday. United Airlines expects to fly nearly 5 million people from June 30 and July 9 while American Airlines anticipates flying close to 3 million passengers from June 30 to July 4.
However, flight delays and cancellations are already hitting the U.S. airlines hard ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. More than 7,000 flights were canceled or delayed on Tuesday as storms battered the country, especially the East Coast. The airline industry is also grappling with staffing shortages, with United CEO Scott Kirby in part blaming understaffing for the large number of recent flight disruptions.
“U.S. airlines have hired more than 55,000 new workers since 2022 to help stave off delays, yet we need an act of Congress and (Federal Aviation Administration) policy changes just to hire 1,800 air traffic controllers per year and ensure they are staffed in the right places,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy of the U.S. Travel Association.
“This is unacceptable, and Congress and the FAA must move faster.”
The Daily Newsletter
Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch
Photo credit: Families like these are among the millions traveling for the Fourth of July weekend Ariel Skelley / Getty Images