KSL INVESTIGATES

What will air travel look like in 2022?

Jan 28, 2022, 6:23 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 10:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — We are nearly into the third year of a pandemic. Another variant is peaking. It is cold. You are cooped up. So, you might already be thinking of vacation time.

Well, 2022 started a little rough for the airline industry to say the least, with thousands of flights cancelled due to weather or COVID. But an expert from a very popular travel site is predicting this year could be a good one for Utahns looking to take to the skies.

Americans are ready to get out of Dodge. Scott’s Cheap Flights predicts more of us will fly this year than did in 2019 before coronavirus struck.

“They’re really eager to get back to taking those trips that they maybe weren’t able to over the past 18 or 24 months,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

He believes the airlines will not be able to keep pace with the spike in demand. That is why he is predicting a 10% jump in the average cost of airfare.

“Airlines don’t have that many planes waiting on the sidelines right now,” Keyes explained. “And so, the average price will have to start to go up.”

And brace for jam-packed planes. Keyes attributed the continued lull of corporate travelers willing to pay higher fares.

“The way that airlines can make the numbers work to make a flight profitable to fly is by really filling up the plane with leisure travelers,” he explained. “Until business travel really starts to rebound in a significant way, I would expect that planes will remain very full with leisure travelers.”

A positive side effect of focusing flights on leisure travel is that it will drive down airfares to popular tourist destinations.

“Think Hawaii. Think Cancun. Think Florida. And that’s going to have a downward impact on the prices,” Keyes said. “Just yesterday, we saw flights from Salt Lake City to Hawaii for about $320 round trip.”

But if you must cancel a trip this year, do not expect to get slapped with change fees. Keyes is predicting they are not coming back for main economy or higher-class fares.

“I actually think it’s going to stay away for quite a few years. Airlines really kind of made a whole big to do that this was a permanent change,” he said.

As omicron recedes — and barring some new COVID variant — Keyes believes it will be easier and cheaper for Americans to travel to Europe in 2022. He expects nearly the entire continent will welcome vaccinated Americans without having to quarantine, by this summer, prompting airlines to reshuffle their fleets.

“The airlines would rather have those big planes flying a longer route, to somewhere like Paris or Rome, than to fly to Miami or Houston,” Keyes said.

For us travelers, he says, that could mean some great deals to Europe.

“Good news for folks who are hoping to travel there this summer,” he said.

While Keyes predicted the average price of flights will go up, he said travel deals are still plenty abundant this year.

Also, if you got vouchers or credit for cancelling a flight in 2020 or 2021, check your expiration dates. If your credit is about to expire, or already has expired, many airlines will work with you on an extension – if you ask for it.

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What will air travel look like in 2022?