Airfares, Fees, and Insights

By Sandra Block, Kiplinger's Personal Finance | May 8th, 2024

What can you expect from the upcoming travel season?


airplane on the runway, for article on airfares and other airline projections for summer 2024

Katy Nastro, a travel expert for Going.com, a subscription service that alerts travelers to airfare deals, tells us her thoughts on this year’s travel season and airfares.


QUESTION: What’s the outlook for the 2024 summer travel season?

ANSWER: We’re not anticipating any major increases in airfares in 2024. Airfares won’t go back to pandemic lows, but we anticipate deals that we haven’t seen for quite some time will return.

However, a deal that might have been available for five days in the past may disappear within one or two days.

QUESTION: To encourage nervous travelers to fly, many airlines scrapped flight-change fees during the pandemic. Do you expect airlines to reinstate them? And do you anticipate increases in baggage fees?

ANSWER: Analysts assumed that once the industry recovered from the pandemic, change fees would come back. But so far, they haven’t. We don’t expect any airlines to bring back change fees for standard economy tickets in 2024. But if you buy a basic economy ticket, nine times out of 10 it will have a change fee.

When it comes to bag fees, most U.S. airlines charge about $30 for the first checked bag on domestic flights. We expect at least two carriers to increase that price to $35 this year. Data shows that airlines can generate quite a bit of money by raising baggage fees by just a small amount.

QUESTION: You’re predicting a record number of air travelers this year. What advice do you have for travelers who will likely face big crowds at the airport?

ANSWER: If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, which provides expedited security screening, this is the year to get it. It’s good for five years, so it’s worth the cost [a $78 fee for first-time enrollees] even if you fly only once a year. Not having to wait an hour or more in security lines reduces the stress of traveling.

If you’re looking for cheap flights and you can be flexible, go in the spring or after Labor Day. September is a fantastic month to go to Europe. For those who need to travel in the summer, try heading out the first two weeks in June or the last two in August, when airfares can cost up to 30% less than in the peak of summer.

QUESTION: Last year, Delta Air Lines changed the way its frequent-flier miles are structured, reducing the value for many longtime customers. Do you expect other airlines to follow suit this year?

ANSWER: In the past decade or so, airlines have been moving toward rewarding fliers who spend more versus those who fly more. Delta rolled back some of its changes in response to the backlash it experienced, but you still need to spend more money to get the benefits. While it’s unclear whether another big airline will follow suit, if you’re sitting on points and miles, try to use them this year instead of hoarding them, because there’s a good chance they’ll lose some of their value moving forward.


Sandra Block is a senior editor at Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.

©2024 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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