Get ready for the most expensive holiday season ever | Tech US News

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CNN Business

For travelers preparing to take their first vacation trips since before the pandemic: brace yourself for sticker shock.

Air fares are very high. US gas prices are higher than ever this time of year. Hotel and rental car rates are up 12% and 46%, respectively, from where they were in 2019.

The good news is that prices for airfare, gas and hotel rooms are all down from record highs reached in early 2022, but still among the highest on record for this time of year. Only rental car prices are lower than what travelers were paying at the end of last year, although they are still well above pre-pandemic levels.

Here’s what will cost travelers the most this holiday season:

When air travel came to a near standstill in 2020 due to the pandemic, US airlines cut staff through early retirement and buyout packages. Staffing is now approaching pre-pandemic levels at most airlines, but the number of flights and available seats has not returned to those levels.

Data from aviation analytics firm Cirium shows that the number of flights scheduled for November and December fell 15% from the same months in 2019. Many of those previously missing flights were operated by smaller regional carriers serving smaller airports, and some of those airports since then. lost service completely. But even with a higher percentage of flights on larger aircraft, the number of available seats is down 3.5% compared to the same period in 2019.

A spike in Covid cases in late 2021 depressed demand for leisure travel, but it is positively robust this year, according to airlines and industry experts.

“Holiday travel is back as strong as ever, and leisure travel is why it’s rebounded,” said Scott Keyes, founder of travel site Scott’s Cheap Flights. “A lot of people wanted to travel during Labor Day and the 4th of July, and as we’ll see very soon, during Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

And that combination – strong demand and tight supply of seats – means high fares.

The average airfare is up 40% from 2021, with leisure travelers paying an average of $289 one-way, according to an airfare tracker compiled by Wall Street analysts at Cowan.

But not only compared to the prices of the pandemic the rates are higher.

Travel site Hopper says airfares have risen 7% compared to the same period in 2019, and up 17% when comparing prices for those who waited up to a week before Thanksgiving to book a flight.

“Holiday travel is certainly more expensive than we’ve seen in previous years,” said Hayley Berg, Hopper’s chief economist.

Of course, most holiday travelers never get on a plane. they drive AAA estimates that 49 million will travel by car during the holidays, compared to 4.5 million who will fly. And for those drivers gas prices are far bigger concern than airfares.

The good news is that the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is well below the record high of $5.02 reached in June. AAA reports that the average as of Sunday was $4.67, down 27%. And prices keep falling: The average price dropped 11 cents per gallon in the last week alone.

But prices are still 8% higher than this time last year. Gasoline prices are often at their seasonal lows at the end of the year, often just before Christmas.

Even with the annual increase in holiday travel, the amount of driving in November and December it’s usually well below the summer driving season. And numerous factors are driving oil and gasoline prices to record highs around the world this year. Chief among them is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led to sanctions on Russian oil. U.S. refining capacity, which fell during the pandemic, has not yet recovered.

The average Sunday price of a gallon of gas that’s 46% higher than the average Nov. 20 price over the past 20 years, according to data from OPIS, which tracks gasoline prices for AAA.

Hotel prices are also more expensive than ever this time of year. The Consumer Price Index, the government’s key inflation gauge, shows that the cost of accommodation away from home hit a record in May and that the October average, the most recent available, is down just 2% from that peak.

Prices are up 6% from a year ago and are 12% higher than in October 2019. While the CPI doesn’t give dollar averages for the prices it tracks, Hopper puts the average hotel room price at $189 over Thanksgiving weekend and $218 over Thanksgiving weekend. Christmas week

Once again, strong demand and tighter supply (some hotels didn’t survive the pandemic, others are still struggling to find the staff they need to fully reopen) is driving up prices.

Car rental companies trimmed their fleets during the first months of the pandemic, selling the cars they had to raise money. Since automakers have yet to return to full production due to shortages of parts needed to build cars, including computer chips, rental car companies are taking a while to replenish their fleets to meet demand.

The good news is that CPI data for October shows that car rental prices are down 3.5% from October last year and 15% from the record set in June 2021. Still , rental cars are 46% more expensive than they were. were in October 2019.

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