Ticket prices set to soar as airlines prep for holiday travel

Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 9:12 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2022 at 9:28 AM CDT
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(CNN) - A new forecast predicts the cost of holiday travel will shoot up this week as the Thanksgiving rush gets closer.

The big question is whether that ticket you pay for will be worth it after the cancellations observed this summer.

Thanksgiving travel is about to take off, and it will be the most expensive of the last five years.

Travel site Hopper said tickets will cost 19% more compared to last year, with the average domestic round-trip ticket at $274.

“This Thanksgiving will be a very expensive holiday to travel,” said Hayley Berg, the lead economist for Hopper. “Especially for travelers who are booking late.”

The pressure is on airlines to avoid a meltdown like this summer, when they canceled a total of 55,000 flights.

Federal data showed that 40% of all cancellations were for reasons that the airlines could control, not weather.

“It is abundantly clear that the majority of delays rest with the airlines,” said Billy Nolen, the acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airlines, however, insist the blame is on the understaffed air traffic control centers.

“In the summer, we had shortages every day,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said. “And they can lead to hundreds of cancellations and delays.”

Hiring is ramping up in the airline industry.

The FAA is bringing on new air traffic controllers.

American Airlines has hired more than 1,400 new employees since Labor Day. United has added more than 1,500 new pilots this year, and there are 3,000 new flight attendants at Southwest.

“We’re certainly with you,” said Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “We’re pushing on our airlines to not over-promise in the schedule so that we can actually deliver what we’re selling to you.”

Even still, carriers are cutting their fall schedules, a move Delta called a “huge improvement” in curbing summer cancellations and delays.

Industry data shows American Airlines dropped 31,000 placeholder flights from its November schedule.

For travelers, it all adds up to a travel season with fewer options and higher prices.

“We’re expecting to see chaos at the airports over the holidays ... but American travelers have shown that they’re resilient,” Berg said. “And they’re willing to pay more and experience these disruptions ... to get back to see family and friends after two years of depressed travel.”

Another risk of waiting too long to buy your flight isn’t just higher ticket prices. Experts said the flights you want may be sold out.