Now is a great time to purchase airline tickets for travel
in the second half of 2020.
Domestic budget fares through September averaged just $139
roundtrip on March 31, said Hayley Berg, an economist for booking platform
Hopper. That’s a drop of 47% since the Covid-19 crisis caused prices to begin
plummeting in early March. Hopper defines budget fares as the lowest 10% of the
fare quotes it tracks.
“Our expectation is that prices will stay low for probably a
few months at least,” Berg said. “It will probably take until well after this
year for prices to recover to where they were, if they ever recover.”
The sharp economic decline -- along with uncertainty about
how long social-distancing measures, stay-at-home orders and travel
restrictions will continue -- looms over booking decisions even for the second
half of this year. But right now, airlines are offering an antidote to
uncertainty in the form of change-fee waivers. United and American, for
example, are waiving change fees for 12 months from the time of booking for all
flights purchased by April 30. Delta has the same offer in place for bookings
through April 15. Southwest never charges change fees.
A March 20 Hopper analysis found that the destinations with
the best domestic deals for June through August were Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona
Beach, Chicago and Flagstaff, Ariz. Budget tickets to Miami were down 45% from
a year earlier.
For domestic travel in September, October and the first half
of November, flights to Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Denver and
Charlotte were down the most compared with a year earlier. Budget ticket prices
to Chicago were off the most at 29%.
Outside the U.S., budget ticket prices for the summer are
down the most to Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Barcelona;
Athens; and Paris.
For the fall, budget airfares are down the most by percentage
on flights to Medellin, Colombia; Lima, Peru; Bogota, Colombia; and Santo Domingo
and Santiago, D.R.