It’s been over a year since the global health crisis first began to shutter businesses around the world, including the United States.
The current health situation has had a huge impact on a number of industries — including the air travel industry. Demand dropped so prices did too, but those low ticket fares can’t last forever. You might not be thinking about the future of airfares, but, if you’re looking to go to Disney World (or anyway on a plane!) soon, you need to.
Travel demand is expected to increase this year
As the vaccine becomes more and more widely distributed, we’re expected to get closer to a return to normal. Already, the CDC has announced that small vaccinated groups can gather without masks and social distancing. They even recently announced vaccinated individuals are able to resume domestic and international travel safely. Once herd immunity is achieved, demand for travel is expected to return to normal levels if not HIGHER than normal levels due to pent-up demand.
President Biden has noted that the U.S. will have enough vaccine to vaccinate every adult by the end of May, prompting industry leaders, like Disney CEO Bob Chapek, to look forward to big steps towards normal by the end of the year.
Demand for air travel remains low at the time of writing. According to MarketWatch, “While air travel surged to the highest levels since March  during the holiday season, it has since fallen back to the low levels that have become commonplace during the global scourge.”
Still, as the vaccine reaches more people, this demand may increase. Some companies, including United Airlines, are already reporting an increase in bookings for later this year. United notes, “While it will take time for the vaccine to be widely distributed, the Company’s confidence is even stronger in the recovery and the trajectory of the rebound in 2021…”
When that expected demand returns, airlines will have the ability to rework flight prices to reflect that demand — which could mean significant price increases.
Air travel costs are DOWN for most travelers right now
Overall last year, the “good-deal” price on round-trip domestic flights in the U.S. was $220 (25% lower than it was in 2019). MarketWatch quotes Hopper economist Adit Damodaran who said, “In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, roundtrip airfare dropped around $60 with lower travel demand.”
Interestingly enough though, prices haven’t bottomed out. Instead, airlines have reduced flights to match current demand and keep operating costs lower. So, tickets aren’t WAY lower than usual — but they certainly are lower than previous years to a point.
Airfare is expected to RISE significantly in 2021
So, as we mentioned, demand is expected to return and analysts are predicting an increase in airfare costs. Hopper’s analysts expect prices to rise on average by 6% beginning this month and leveling off in the summer.
Another factor to consider is how quickly airlines will replenish the supply. Again, many airlines have limited the number of flights to help keep expenditures low. If demand returns before flights are reinstated, travelers may be competing for fewer seats. This factor could make for higher ticket prices. Price is easily driven by demand in many cases. Air travel is one of those. IF you’ve flown during the holiday season, you’ve likely seen this firsthand.
Yet another factor to consider is the large number of people who received vouchers for canceled travel in 2020. If those vouchers had expiration dates, as many of them did, travelers may be rushing to use their vouchers before they expire — another element that could drive prices higher.
How to reduce the effect on your Disney trip!
So, this potential rise in airfare WILL affect your Disney trip if you’re flying. You could be looking at pricier and pricier flights as the months go by.
One way to get around this? Go ahead and book those flights NOW. As mentioned, most flight prices are still on the lower end due to limited demand. If you get those flights booked, you may find yourself saving some serious cash.
Still, make sure you read that cancellation and change policy. Many airlines have been instituting temporary policies, but you don’t want to get stuck with a flight that needs changing because you rushed to book while prices are low.
To be extra safe, you might want to consider booking a flight with a flexible cancellation policy. These are often an option for a slightly higher price. If your location and situation allow it, you can always consider driving as a viable option as well.
For many, buying airline tickets to get to Disney World is just an accepted expense of a visit to the parks. But that doesn’t mean you have to be caught off guard. Prepare early! As always, stay tuned to DFB for the latest updates and analyses to help you plan your Disney trips.
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
Headed to Disney World in the next few years? Tell us in the comments!