Waiting to book might sound appealing as prices continue to...

Waiting to book might sound appealing as prices continue to drop, but do so at your own risk. Credit: Getty Images/bojanstory

Inflation has hit most of the economy, but that’s hardly the case with airfare. Not only are airfares down 6% year-over-year based on January 2024 prices, but they’re even down 15% versus a decade ago. That’s according to consumer price index data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published in February. Some experts predict airfares to international destinations will drop even lower in 2024.

According to the American Express Global Business Travel Air Monitor 2024 report, prices on certain international routes may drop as much as 12%.

Here’s how Amex GBT anticipates average economy airfares, for a sampling of regions, will change in 2024 versus 2023:

North America to Central America: Drop by 7.8%.

North America to Asia: Drop by 7.5%.

Asia to North America: Drop by 5.2%.

North America to Europe: Drop by 3.5%.

MORE FLIGHTS, ROUTES

So, why are airfares dropping?

Last year was huge for travel, with several records broken. The U.S. State Department issued a record 24 million passport books and cards during the 2023 fiscal year, signaling increased interest in travel abroad.

Katy Nastro, a spokeswoman for airfare tracking website Going, has seen an increase in international flight bookings.

Airlines added 10% more flights between the United States and Central America in 2023 versus 2022, according to scheduling data analyzed by Going from aviation analytics company Cirium Diio. In 2024, airlines are expected to add another 10%.

Last year’s high traveler volume has prompted airlines to increase flights to other parts of the world. For example, Delta Air Lines announced that it will launch its largest-ever trans-Atlantic schedule for summer 2024. That includes new daily service from New York to Naples, Italy, beginning in May, as well as more flights from the United States to Paris; Venice, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; and Dublin.

For travel from North America to Asia, there are 5.5 million more airline seats for sale in the first half of 2024 versus the same period in 2023. That’s a 35% year-over-year increase, said Jeremy Quek, principal global air practice line lead at Amex GBT, who said he expects increased supply to "reduce overall prices.”

BUDGET AIRLINES’ IMPACT

New, smaller airlines (particularly low-cost carriers) are also competing for customers, which helps bring down airfares industrywide.

For example, Norse Atlantic Airways is a Norwegian low-cost airline that started flying to the United States in 2022. Now it operates 13 routes between the United States and five European cities, including some from Kennedy Airport. Come May 2024, Norse will launch summer flights between New York and Athens, Greece.

And though airfares are falling, don’t delay booking in hopes that they’ll fall further. Going advises booking two to eight months out for international travel.

“Airfares tend to increase the closer you get to booking,” Nastro says. “In reality, it is far more likely for airlines to sell tickets at higher prices at the last minute.”

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