It's Not Time to Panic About Jet Fuel Prices - Yet

[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]

The story about rising jet fuel prices has been everywhere in the past week. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and NBC News have all reported the hike. As for me, I get questions about this daily, mostly along the lines of, “Are plane ticket prices going to soar into the stratosphere?”

Relax; it’s not time to panic. Not yet, anyway. Here’s what to know:

Oil Hikes, Fuel Hikes

Yes, jet fuel prices are on the rise because oil prices are on the rise. For airlines that’s meant a fuel price rise of about 50% over the past year. As an example of what this means, NBC reports that jet fuel for a cross-country trip in an Airbus cost $7,000 a year ago; now it runs $10,750. 

How Much Will Airfares Rise?

Right now, it’s not too bad. Generally, airfares are rising from about $5 one-way to $10 one-way for longer trips. Since many people have already purchased tickets for their big trip of the year –  summer vacation – they won’t even notice.

More of us will start to feel the higher fares beginning in the fall. The good news: Fall is notably cheaper than the summer season, which will help mitigate some of this pain. 

Who Will Feel the Worst Pain?

It depends on where you live and where you want to fly. generally speaking, flights to-and-from smaller cities that have little airline competition will see higher fare hikes.

Larger cities – particularly those with lots of airline competition and multiple airports – will not feel the hikes nearly as much. Examples: Newark, Los Angeles, the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, to name just a few.

What About the High-End Traveler?

There will be some pain for those who fall into two categories; some business travelers, some Europe travelers. The last-minute business traveler who flies in business class will feel the hike more than a lot of people, but the good news is that the boss is the one who usually picks up the tab for this premium class.

Europe travelers will most likely be paying for their own painful hikes, but we are still seeing plenty of cities where prices are bargains including Paris, London, Dublin. Another big bargain is Iceland’s Reykjavik.  

What Can Travelers Do to Cut Costs?

There are always a few ways to cut costs; they range from no-big-deal to mildly irritating to truly inconvenient. Maybe one, maybe all, will work for you.

No big deal: Fly with a carryon bag instead of checking a suitcase, and just like that, you save $50. OK, the ultra discounters tend to charge for all luggage but many only ding you for big bags.

Mildly irritating: Fly at dawn instead of a more civilized hour when traveling domestically; you can generally save a few dollars, sometimes more than a few.

Truly inconvenient: Add a stop to your travels. This does not always save money but often does. For instance, in a recent search I found a roundtrip ticket for Dallas to London in October for $1,094, non-stop. Then I added a stop and the fare dipped to $644.

Personally, I can stand a lot of inconvenience to save $400+ and maybe you can, too.

For more on saving, see These Travel Days Get You the Cheapest Flights and The Cheapest Days to Fly in 2018.

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