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Airfare Is Set to Rise, So When Is the Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets Now? | Frommer's Mascha Tace / Shutterstock

Airfare Is Set to Rise, So When Is the Best Time to Buy Plane Tickets Now?

According to experts at the price-tracking app Hopper, domestic airfares will tick up 7% every month between now and June.

That's a head-turning rate. It's normal for airfares to increase between the nadir of the low travel season (January) and the high season of summer, but in the past, the jump has only been 2% per month. But airfares were so low during the doldrums of 2020 and 2021 that they have only one direction to go: skyward.

Adit Damodaran, an economist for Hopper, has advice for getting around the projected increase. "If you're planning to fly somewhere in the next 35 days or so, the sooner you book, the better," he told me. "Prices will be going up significantly in the coming weeks."

He also recommends traveling now rather than later, to take advantage of the best fares.

But when I pressed him about whether travelers should buy tickets now for the summer months, he demurred.

"We know that traditionally, airfares are at their lowest three to five weeks before travel," he told me—airlines rarely release their lowest fares until they have a good idea how well flights are selling. "We think that will be the case this year, and that some of the unusually big price jumps have to do with depressed demand for travel in this moment, thanks to Omicron." 

Hopper predicts fares will return to 2019 levels by April, and the average round-trip domestic U.S. airfare will be $315 in June. 

International airfares are also expected to rise by about 5% per month through June. Average international fares should top out at $830 round-trip, according to Hopper.

But if you can travel right now, you'll pay an average of just $649 for an international flight—the lowest, inflation-adjusted average ever seen for January travel.

Where are flyers going right now? To Disney World, just like all the Super Bowl winners. Orlando is the most-searched domestic fare cited by Hopper and the second-most popular one for Priceline users, according to that company's most recent press release.

Las Vegas is tops on Priceline and second on Hopper, followed by Miami (Hopper) and New York (Priceline).

The most popular international searches are for London, Cancún, and Paris, according to Hopper, with Priceline users looking at Cancún, Punta Cana, and Paris.

Interestingly, Hopper reports significantly more domestic searches and bookings for the week around Valentine's Day and mid-March, thought it's unclear why those periods are currently so popular.

For international fares, things will pick up during the traditional spring break season in mid-March.