By SAMUEL BLATCHFORD
Capital News Service
LANSING – Air travel has slowly returned since the pandemic, a trend expected to continue as travel companies and airport officials predict it will strengthen even more this summer.
”There’s definitely potential for some healthy numbers this summer,” said Gabe Saglie, senior communications manager for Travelzoo, a travel service provider in New York City. “If spring break is any indication, summer should see traveler numbers in record-setting territory.”
At the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, airlines are offering more seats in response to the increased demand, said Craig Williams, the airport director. Larger planes were introduced in March.
“Delta Airlines was flying 50-seat regional jets and now they are flying 70- and 90- seat regional jets,” Williams said..
Delta is also adding a third flight due to increased demand, he said.
Autumn MacClaren, director of marketing, public relations and air service at Flint’s Bishop International Airport, also reports increased demand since last year.
“We are still seeing that demand for travel pick up, probably a little more this summer than perhaps in previous summers,” MacClaren said.
Service has increased especially since the airport became a hub for Allegiant Airlines last year, she said.
Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, a mobile travel app with headquarters in Montreal, predicts a strong summer season. Users of the Hopper app booked 1.8 flights in 2022 compared with 1.5 flights pre-pandemic in 2019.
Kiwi.com, a Czech Republic online travel agency, reports travel from the U.S to anywhere in the world have increased 76% in U.S. summer travel bookings, said Carol Barnes, the agency’s communications director.
Travelers nationwide are also expected to spend more on flights than they did pre-pandemic.
Airfare is 16% higher than 2019 levels.
“Airfare for domestic trips is trending below 2022 numbers but remains higher than 2019 pricing,” Saglie said.
Despite recession concerns and tightening budgets, “demand is incredibly strong,” Berg said. She recommends booking domestic trips at least two to three months in advance.
“The best time to book for summer travel isn’t until later in the spring,” Berg said. “In general you want to book by April for international flights and May for domestic flights to get the best deals,” she said.
For domestic trips in June, expect to book in April or May. Domestic trips in August should be booked by May to June or even early July, Berg said.
And expect to book international flights three to five months in advance.
Europe still remains the highest demand international region.
A recent poll of 2,000 U.S. adults who had been on vacation found that 39% said that in 2023 they will be traveling both domestically and internationally, 26% said that they will be only traveling domestically and 22% said that they will only be traveling internationally, said Laura Lindsay, the global travel trends expert for Skyscanner, the company who did the survey.
Increased demand for travel to Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico suggest that Americans continue to make up for lost travel opportunities during the pandemic, said Travelzoo’s Saglie. They are turning to classic overseas destinations to satisfy their desires to get back to traveling.