Great Prices, Better Seats, and Longer Trips: Airline Travel Trends to Watch in 2022

By Julie Kyse, VP, Global Air Partnerships, Expedia Group


It’s no secret that people are ready to travel again after more than a year of limitations, restrictions and isolation. While airlines incurred net industry losses in 2020, the latest data reveals improving financial performance. A recent study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that total passenger numbers are expected to reach 2.3B in 2021 and grow to 3.4B in 2022, which is similar to 2014 levels.

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As the airline industry continues its steady recovery, now is a great opportunity for travelers to get a deal, and in many cases, on better seats. And while most travelers will be focused on short trips for the time being, it won’t be long until eased travel restrictions and the yearn to see the world lead to longer haul bookings.

Here are some other trends for airlines and airline travelers to watch out for as we head into the new year.

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Treat Yourself – Now’s the Time to Upgrade

Airlines have long sought to make flying – especially premium class flying — a special experience, sometimes meaning good deals are hard to come by. But perhaps no longer. According to Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the average cost to fly roundtrip within the U.S. in 2021 is nearly 20% less than the pre-pandemic averages of 2018 and 2019.

The price gap between premium and economy is closing as well. In 2021 the premium economy average ticket prices were 288 percent more than economy tickets, whereas in 2020 they were 365 percent more expensive. Pre-pandemic, in 2019 average prices for a premium economy ticket were a whopping 430 percent more expensive than economy.

All of this means that, for travelers who have thought about splurging to upgrade their flight there has never been a better time than now, especially as longer trips appear on the horizon.

Travelers Planning to Go Big for 2022

With pandemic fears around international traveling still lingering, domestic trips will dominate the near-term trips for most travelers. According to Expedia research U.S. searches during summer 2021 (June, July, August) were primarily for domestic destinations with a booking window of between 1 – 60 days.

While short trips will dominate in the short-term, people will likely be ready to travel abroad in 2022. This readiness to travel and for new adventures aligns with Expedia Group’s recent Traveler Value Index Report, which found that more than half of travelers felt new experiences were a top benefit of travel and more than three-quarters of travelers were more likely to select a new destination for their next trip.

By planning now for 2022 trips, travelers can unlock huge savings by being flexible and choosing the right month to travel. Our data showed that for domestic flights, the ideal month to depart is January, when travelers can save up to 11 percent versus traveling in June. For international flights, August is the ideal month, where travelers can save almost 19 percent, versus traveling in December.

Flexibility Pays Off

As consumers make their choices in where and when to travel, our research found that one in five Americans are seeking savings tips and more than a third (38%) are willing to be flexible with their travel plans in order to save money on their next trip. And our research found that, on average, U.S. travelers can save up to 10 percent by bundling their flight and hotel together in one transaction.

The US airline industry was not immune to the devastating impacts of the pandemic on travel. But thanks to the market’s resiliency and investment in safety protocols and the widespread availability of vaccines, it looks like the turnaround will be swift. This bodes well for airlines operating in the wider ecosystem, particularly as the holiday travel season approaches and travelers start to go big and plan incredible trips for 2022.

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