Are airfare price increases leveling off?

An expert says now might be the best time to shop for summer airfare.

Airplane in the air.

Airfare remains expensive, but the rate of increases have slowed in recent months. 

According to data from NerdWallet, airfare increased 25.6% in January 2023 compared to a year earlier. But the data showed a 1.5% drop in airfare from December. 

Airfare also remains about 3.7% more expensive than January 2020.

After prices bottomed out in 2020, demand has helped force prices back up. 

"Travel is back," said Sally French, NerdWallet travel expert. "People are trying to make up for those past few years of no travel, and so, of course, expect to pay more than you did like pretty much all items than you did pre-pandemic."

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For summer travel, French suggests now might be the time to start booking airfare. She says generally fares are at their lowest about three months out. 

"The idea of a last-minute airfare deal is really hard to come by," she said. "There's often last-minute deals for things like hotels, but we just don't really see that with airlines. There are, you know, a lot of people who say the best time to book is exactly on this day of the week, and a lot of that isn't really always true. It depends on so many different circumstances."

French recommends checking fees before booking.

"Often the biggest cost of travel is not just the airline," she said. "It's all the things that go with it like the checked bag fees, people who want to pay for the seat selection so they can board early and put their bag in the overhead bin. And what is encouraging is that we're increasingly seeing more credit card benefits that will allow you to get these things for free."