Labor Day Flights Will Cost 23% More Than Last Year
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - OCTOBER 11: Travelers wait to check in at the Southwest Airlines ticketing counter at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on October 11, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. Southwest Airlines is working to catch up on a backlog after canceling hundreds of flights over the weekend, blaming air traffic control issues and weather.
Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

Americans traveling for Labor Day will have to contend with prices 23% higher than last year, according to a Tuesday report from Hopper.

The travel booking company found that domestic airfare over the holiday weekend will cost an average of $278 per round trip, marking a 20% increase over rates seen in 2019 and a 23% increase over those in 2021. Roughly 12.6 million passengers are expected to fly, with those leaving on Thursday, September 1, or Friday, September 2, witnessing the highest prices.

“Prices remain at historically high levels as demand for travel has been strong throughout the summer after pent up demand from the prior two years due to the pandemic,” Hopper economist Hayley Berg wrote.

At a rate of $189 per night, hotel stays are 6% more expensive since the same weekend last year, with New York City, Las Vegas, and Orlando experiencing the highest search volumes from Labor Day travelers.

While the majority of passengers will fly domestically, about 39% will travel to other countries, with international round-trip airfare averaging $850 — a 34% increase since last year and a 30% rise since 2019. Among the most popular overseas destinations include San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cancun, Mexico; and Mexico City, Mexico.

Transportation expenses have risen considerably over the past year, with airline fares soaring 27.7% between July 2021 and July 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increase has corresponded with a 32.9% rise in energy prices, which includes a 44% rise in gasoline costs. According to Hopper, jet fuel prices remain “historically high,” yet have declined in recent weeks to $2.94 per gallon.

The air travel industry has been impacted by persistent flight cancellations as airlines seek to grapple with a pilot shortage. More than 3,000 cancellations met passengers over a period of two days in May as a bout of extreme weather hit the eastern United States, while more than 1,800 cancellations occurred during the Fourth of July weekend.

The United States will lack 12,000 pilots by 2023, even as 14,000 pilots will be forced to leave the workforce over the next five years because of a federal law mandating that airline pilots retire by 65 years old, according to a study by consulting group Oliver Wyman.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) therefore proposed the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act — a bill that would raise the commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67. “Following the heavy-handed stupidity of government lockdowns, travel demand has naturally skyrocketed. However, Americans are now experiencing flight delays and cancellations on an unacceptable scale due to a worsening pilot shortage,” Roy argued. “A key factor is a government-mandated retirement age that forces out thousands of our most qualified pilots every year.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, however, has rejected such a proposal. “These retirement ages are there for a reason, and the reason is safety. I’m not going to be on board with anything that could compromise safety,” he told Fox News host Mike Emanuel last month. “Now, what’s clearly the case is we need to cultivate, train, and support a new generation of qualified pilots.”

Many other industries are likewise experiencing worker shortages as the labor force participation rate has continued to lag over the past two years. The metric dropped from 66% in 2008 to 63% in 2020, falling another 3% in the spring of 2020 alone as COVID led to government lockdowns, before rising again to 62% as of last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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