Average airfares in the US are at historic lows, but it still pays to consider when you book and when you fly, according to the 2021 Travel Trends Report from Airlines Reporting Corp. in collaboration with Expedia.com.
Even in the pandemic of 2020, the research found seasonality, advance purchase and day of departure decisions still impact pricing. Average ticket prices for domestic US flights hit their lowest level of the year in late April and have since begun to rebound. Year over year fares were 25 percent to 35 percent lower between May and October but still were following the usual seasonality curve.
International ticket prices spiked briefly in April then fell back to 2019 levels in mid-June and finally settling 30 percent to 35 percent lower year over year during the fall months.
ARC’s global airline sales data reveals that US travelers who booked flights on Sunday saved on both domestic and international airfares. Scheduling a Friday departure for domestic trips, or on a Thursday for international trips – when fares are typically lower –produced even more cost savings.
In 2019, the average US traveler booked flights around 35 days in advance of the departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window lengthened to 46 days. Travelers are now purchasing flights just 29 days out. ARC says this is the first time in years that the average advance purchase window has dropped below the 30-day mark.
In 2020, average daily hotel rates for refundable bookings were 20 percent cheaper compared with 2019, according to Expedia.com lodging data. Given more affordable booking flexibility, US travelers booked refundable rates 10 percent more often this year compared with 2019.