Airfare To Stay Low Through January, Then Start Rising In February

Prices are expected to be up about 4.5% compared to the same time last year and up only 1.3% compared to two years ago.

Patrick Surry - Dec. 19, 2018

Summary

Pricing Trends: January - May 2019

  • In January, we project a 3.2% decrease in domestic round-trip flight prices to $220.

  • Flight prices are up 4.5% compared to the same time last year.

  • We're forecasting that prices will start rising to around $235 starting in February.

  • Jet fuel prices raised 2% in January to $2.01/gal and are now at 2011 levels.

Trending Destinations for 2019

  • Bora Bora is the #1 trending destination for millennials in 2019.

  • Frankfurt has dropped the most in popularity and is down 17% compared to last year.

Airline Growth

  • US domestic capacity will experience a 6.7% YoY growth in January.

Pricing Trends

Prices are expected to be up about 4.5% compared to the same time last year and up only 1.3% compared to two years ago. The price of jet fuel rose about 2% last month, though prices are now at 2011 levels. The winter period is starting with low prices through January, but we expect prices to rise after that starting in February.

Actual average domestic consumer airfare prices through January 2019

Actual average domestic consumer airfare prices through January 2019 (solid line), with six-month forward forecast price levels (dashed), showing prices staying stable until January, then rising in February and March.

Jet fuel prices raised 2% in January

Jet fuel prices raised 2% in January to $2.01/gal.

A longer range view shows that jet fuel prices are now around 2011 levels

A longer range view shows that jet fuel prices are now around 2011 levels, growing again since a significant drop in 2015. Airfare has been on a controlled downward trend for the past 3 years and is reflecting 2009-2010 price levels.

Hopper's six-month forecast for consumer airfare showing prices staying flat until January

Hopper's six-month forecast for consumer airfare, showing prices staying flat until January then rising until May.

Bora Bora Is #1 Trending Destination For Millennials in 2019

As another year of travel comes to a close, Hopper's data science team looked ahead to uncover the destinations rising and falling in popularity based on an analysis of the millions of trips Hopper's 30M+ users are already tracking in the app for next year.

Travelers can set trip "watches" on Hopper up to 1 year in advance, and the average Hopper user sets a watch up to 90 days in advance of when they would typically search on the web. Early intent data combined with a majority millennial user base gives Hopper a unique look into the destinations already trending in the new year among the millennial set.

From beaches to mountains and everything in-between, here's Hopper's list of destinations trending up & down for millennials in 2019.

What Destinations Are Hot For Millennials In The New Year?

These 10 Are Already Trending Up For 2019

Destinations increasing in popularity in 2019

Destinations increasing in popularity in 2019.

What Destinations Are Dropping In Popularity For 2019?

These 10 Are Trending Down For Next Year

Destinations decreasing in popularity in 2019

Destinations decreasing in popularity in 2019.

Destinations to Watch on Hopper in January

The Hopper app predicts future flight prices with 95% accuracy. If you select the "Watch This Trip" button, Hopper will constantly monitor prices and notify you the instant you should buy.

We calculated popular destinations for upcoming travel where you could save most by watching prices on Hopper. If you're interested in visiting any of these destinations in the next few months, we recommend setting your watch on Hopper now so that you can be alerted about price drops this month.

Domestic destinations most likely to drop in price on Hopper in January

Domestic destinations most likely to drop in price on Hopper in January.

International destinations most likely to drop in price on Hopper in January.

International destinations most likely to drop in price on Hopper in January.

Capacity Trends

The capacity of major US carriers changed 6.8% and 1.6% from January of last year for domestic and international routes respectively. Foreign major carrier capacity grew 3.3% on U.S. international routes. LCC capacity over the past year has drastically expanded. US LCCs exhibited a YoY capacity growth of 5.2% and 43.6% in domestic and international markets respectively; foreign LCCs grew 3.0% from January of last year.

Domestic Flights

Domestic Flights January 2018

Domestic Flights January 2018

International Flights

International Flights January 2018

International Flights January 2018

Methodology

Our Consumer Airfare Index combines search data for every origin and destination in the United States, providing a near real-time estimate of overall airfare prices - unlike other comparable indices that can lag by several months.

Our Consumer Airfare Index represents the price of tickets available for purchase in a given month, not necessarily for travel in that month. Since travel prices are represented in both time dimensions -- time of purchase and time of travel -- it can be difficult to interpret price dynamics. We use date of purchase because it reflects the price consumers are paying at a given point in time, and we report it alongside the typical advance purchase date to give an idea of how these prices translate into travel dates.

Other indices simply take the average of all fares to represent overall price which skews the results toward expensive fares and can give an unrealistic impression of the true cost of flying. We instead use what we consider to be a "good deal" for each route to reflect what consumers should reasonably expect to pay.

Since our index is constructed and forecasted at the origin-destination level, we can also provide comparable estimates for any combination of routes and extract insights on pricing not only across time, but also across different markets. We use monthly passenger data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to ensure that each domestic route is properly represented in the final index based on its share of total passengers.

When predicting future prices, we also consider a few key features of airline pricing. First, prices within a given route will fluctuate with the number of passengers.

Second, prices change predictably with the seasons, especially during the peaks of summer and holiday travel. Of course, much of this variation has to do with increased demand - but in peak travel seasons, airlines can raise prices not only because there are more people interested in travelling, but also because the average traveler is willing to pay more for their summer vacation or trip home for the holidays.

Finally, changes in prices may persist, especially if there are underlying conditions pushing prices up or down, as these effects may be spread over several months. Conversely, the opposite may be true - after a big price increase or drop, fares are more likely to change in the opposite direction in future months. Since dynamics like these and the above aren't always consistent, we evaluate future prices at the origin-destination level to capture the unique properties of pricing for different routes.

Of course, predicting the future is no easy task, and many factors that influence pricing are simply unforeseeable. However, by exploiting the factors that are predictable, like trends in passenger distribution, seasonal variation, and recent price activity, it's possible to extract insights about the near future of pricing.

The capacity section looks at total scheduled seats across major carriers and low cost carriers (LCC's). US Domestic Flights includes all scheduled seats on flights within the United States and US International Flights includes all scheduled seats on flights between the United States and destinations outside of the United States.

Historical Analysis and Comparisons

Our index generally tracks the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Airfare Consumer Price Index, which is a related aggregation of the prices consumers pay to fly but is more strongly influenced by more expensive business-oriented travel. It's also released on a more delayed schedule than our index.

Comparing monthly changes measured by Hopper's consumer airfare index with the BLS airfare consumer price index

Comparing monthly changes measured by Hopper's consumer airfare index with the BLS airfare consumer price index.

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