We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: air travel is pricey this summer, and getting pricier.
Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker estimated in a report Friday that U.S. airfares are up roughly 34 percent compared to to last year. That’s a big jump and likely to climb higher as airlines continue to par back schedules. Delta Air Lines said Thursday that it would “thin” schedules over Memorial Day weekend and into August, including cutting roughly 100 daily flights from July 1 to August 7. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines have already reactively cut schedules or updated guidance with fewer flights than they hoped to fly this summer.
“Demand is above 2019 levels, but capacity is still below 2019 levels,” Becker wrote. “We estimate it is ~90 percent of levels seen three years ago, and airlines continue to reduce capacity for this summer.”
She cited five reasons, including pilot staffing, aircraft, and air traffic control, for why airlines are reducing their schedules:
True to form, at midday on the Friday before Memorial Day — the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. — the Federal Aviation Administration limited the number of flights into, out of, and through Florida airspace due to “weather and staffing” at its Jacksonville air traffic control center.
Becker estimated that roughly 13 million people will fly in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend. That would represent 90.5 percent of the number who flew over the same weekend in 2019.