Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, more than 12 million Americans are likely to travel, as airfares surge dramatically above both 2021 and pre-pandemic 2019 levels. According to the travel service Hopper, the majority of the 12.6 million Americans slated to fly will go on Friday and return on Monday, Sept. 5. The average round-trip domestic flight price for the holiday weekend is $278, up 23% from 2021 and 20% from 2019. And the typical round-trip foreign airfare costs $850, which is 34% higher than last year and 30% higher than in 2019.
“After a summer of historically high travel demand, many Americans are taking one more vacation over Labor Day weekend before the summer season comes to an end,” Hopper wrote in its analysis. “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.”
Las Vegas was the most popular domestic destination for the holiday weekend, followed by Denver and Atlanta. Beach holidays in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Cancun were other popular choices. Although flights are pricey, hotel costs have dropped from a high of $193 per night in June to an average of $189 per night over the holiday weekend.
The high airline fares come after a summer of extremely high demand, which, when combined with workforce shortages and air traffic control concerns, resulted in huge cancellations and delays. As a result, some airlines, including JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, have preemptively reduced their summer schedules to avoid additional disruptions, while others, including United and American Airlines, have extended those cuts into the fall.
The Department of Transportation has also taken action against airlines, creating a new interactive website to help travelers understand airline cancellation and delay policies, as well as proposing a rule change that would require carriers to issue a refund if a domestic flight is delayed for more than three hours.