Airfares rose record 18.6 percent in April

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Airfares jumped 18.6 percent from March to April, according to data released Wednesday by the Labor Department, the largest month-over-month increase for plane tickets on record.

The huge jump comes after airfares increased 10.7 percent from February to March. Overall, flights were 33.3 percent more expensive than they were in April of last year. 

Airlines point to rising fuel costs and a surge in demand for summer flights as the driving forces behind airfare hikes. Several of the nation’s leading airlines reduced their flight schedules in the coming months to dampen the impact of higher fuel prices, keep airfares elevated and limit potential delays and cancellations.

During a roundtable hosted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Tuesday, industry officials predicted that U.S. travel will nearly reach pre-pandemic levels this summer, with airports potentially screening a record 3 million passengers on the busiest day.

“We expect this summer to be very, very busy,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. “Spring break was very busy. We generally saw passenger volumes recover to over 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and in some airports well in excess of pre-pandemic levels.”

Industry executives say passengers are willing to pay higher fares to get in on summer travel. On an earnings call last month, Delta Air Lines President Glen Hauenstein said the airline hasn’t “seen a lot of resistance” to the current prices.

Airlines say the skyrocketing price of fuel, stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and pandemic-induced supply chain bottlenecks, bleeds into airfares. 

Customer satisfaction with airlines dropped for the first time in a decade over the last year, according to a J.D. Power survey released Wednesday, with respondents citing higher airfares and more crowded planes. 

Airfares saw one of the largest increases among all products and services in Wednesday’s Labor Department report. Overall, inflation cooled off slightly, increasing by 0.3 percent last month and rising 8.3 percent over the last year.

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