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Cheap Fares Are Great, but Will They Last?

The AP reports that while travelers are currently enjoying a prolonged period of cheap fares, even for international flights, airlines are already taking steps that will result in steadily increasing airfares over the coming months. All good things must come to an end.

Adjusted for inflation, airfares are currently at their lowest point since 2010. Oil prices have dropped, and simultaneously airlines have aggressively added seats to keep up with growing demand. The resulting oversupply of seats means airlines have to lower fares to keep their planes full.

According to the AP, “Within the U.S., the cost of an average round-trip fell about 8 percent last year to $363, according to government figures. Through March, the average fare per mile was down 6 percent from early 2015, according to the industry trade group Airlines for America. Fares have fallen faster on international routes than on domestic ones, largely because the foreign airlines added of a glut of flights”

But now, with oil prices starting to creep up, airlines are taking action. Delta plans to slow growth over the coming months, and it’s a safe bet other airlines will at least consider similar actions.

What does it mean for you? Two things: Travel now, and expect long lines.

By “travel now,” I mean travel this year. Anything the airlines do to stabilize or increase fares will take time to materialize. No one can predict the future, but right now and likely for most of 2015, the combination of low oil prices and abundant seats will remain more or less in place.  This is especially true when flying overseas, particularly outside peak season. But even peak season fares have dropped—Airfarewatchdog’s George Hobica told the AP he found July flights from JFK to London, which normally go for around $1,2000, for $668 (excuse me while I go request some time off).

As for those long lines? Not surprisingly, all these low fares mean more people are flying—4 percent more this summer compared to last, according to most estimates. Issues with excessive wait times have been in the news quite a bit lately, and some airlines are even pitching in their own cash to alleviate the problem. But that’s the price you pay for cheap fares, I suppose.

All in all it’s a good time to fly, so get it while the getting is good.

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