Nearly Half of Americans Skipping Summer Vacation Due to Flight Costs: Poll

Nearly half of all Americans interested in taking a summer vacation this year are not doing so because of rising air travel costs, a new poll has found.

Polling conducted exclusively for Newsweek by Redfield & Wilton Strategies has found that 44 percent of Americans would be taking a summer holiday this year if traveling by air wasn’t so expensive. The survey was conducted on June 27 and June 28, sampling 2,500 eligible voters in the U.S.

Over the last year, the consumer price index for airline tickets has increased by 25 percent—the largest jump since Federal Reserve of St. Louis records began in 1989. In April, airfares jumped by 18.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the poll, all age groups reported similar results, with Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, baby boomers and America’s eldest all indicating between 42 percent and 47 percent will not take a holiday in summer 2024, due to high airfares. Republican voters were also less likely to travel by air this summer (54 percent) compared to Democratic voters (43 percent).

“The increase in air travel costs can mostly be attributed to a combination of higher fuel prices, increased operational costs, and the imbalance between supply and demand in the airline industry,” Jesse Neugarten, founder and CEO of Dollar Flight Club, told Newsweek. “Fuel is one of the largest expenses for airlines, and as global oil prices have risen, these costs have been passed on to travelers in the form of higher ticket prices, add-on fees, etc.—all to make up that profit margin.”

Neugarten said airlines have also faced increased operational costs after lockdowns ended and international and domestic travel picked up again following the coronavirus pandemic. “As travel demand surged with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, airlines struggled to keep up due to reduced airplane capacity and staffing shortages which we saw all over the news a few years ago,” he continued.

According to OAG Aviation, over the course of 2023, airlines worldwide had not recovered the same amount of seats available on flights in 2019, the year preceding the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. A low of 41.8 million seats were available on international flights in January 2019, compared to a low of 32.4 million available tickets in January 2023.

Americans Can No Longer Afford to Fly
Forty-four percent of Americans interested in taking a summer vacation this year are not doing so because of rising air travel costs, according to a new poll conducted exclusively for Newsweek by Redfield & Wilton…

Photo-illustration by Newsweek/Getty

“This imbalance between high demand and limited supply has driven ticket prices up for all of us travelers,” Neugarten said.

A shortage in staff, caused by mass layoffs when air travel effectively shut down during the worst of the pandemic, is also a factor in rising air travel costs. Alonso Marley, travel expert at Skyluxtravel, told Newsweek that no role in the airline industry was immune from the job cuts, from “pilots to flight attendants and maintenance technicians.

“Not only the airlines but also airport service providers made massive layoffs during the pandemic and have not been able to go back to the previous capacity yet,” indicating that “more expensive labor means fewer flights and higher costs.”

LaDell Carter, founder of Royal Expression Travels, said her company has recently “observed significant fluctuations in airfare costs.”

“We had clients who paid $970 for an economy flight to Barcelona, only to have another client pay $2,500 for the same routing just weeks later,” she told Newsweek, highlighting that “such discrepancies are often due to sold-out flights and scarce availability.”

Richard Campbell, founder of Canada-based 10Adventures, said the cost issue doesn’t necessarily lie just with more expensive airfares, but rather that people’s budgets are being constrained by other rising costs.

“I don’t think the root cause of travelers seeking deals is that flights are more expensive in 2024,” he told Newsweek. “But the issue is that travel budgets are being tightened.”

Polling certainly suggests this is the case, with 54 percent of those not going on vacation this summer have no plans due to the cost of living. Of those who are planning on a getaway in the coming months, 64 percent said that high living costs have impacted their vacation planning.

“What we hear more often is that cost increases are driving the need to be more ruthless with travel budgets. It seems so many big aspects of day-to-day budgets are being impacted, from mortgage or rent payments, to insurance, to groceries and even utilities, many things are going up, and this means less money for travel spending.”

As for the future, Marley said prices are uncertain going into post-summer 2024, “as the aviation industry is the first to be affected by major global events and economic background.”

“However, prices will undoubtedly fluctuate depending on different factors such as route, demand, and travel dates, and there is still a good chance to secure more affordable travel deals both domestically and internationally,” he continued. “As a travel expert who helps travelers book hundreds of flights daily, I can confirm that regardless of the rising costs, giving up their annual vacation is the last thing people will want to do.”